I’ll begin by stating the obvious: Treating someone disparagingly because of race is unacceptable, un-American and should be wholeheartedly condemned.
However, disparaging treatment of a black football coach by a white team owner has nothing to do with racism unless the coach’s race was the basis for the poor treatment.
Specifically, Brian Flores, a native New Yorker born to Honduran parents who identifies as “black,” was fired as head coach of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins. In the NFL, as in other leagues, one team’s loss is another team’s gain. Ousted coaches often find other teams willing to give them a try.
In this case, Flores was up for the New York Giants’ head coaching job, only to conclude that the team had decided to hire someone else before speaking with him and that the only reason the Giants had even granted him an interview was to fulfill the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching vacancies. Flores is now suing the NFL and all 32 of its teams for racially discriminatory hiring practices.
Flores’ discovery of the Giants’ alleged tactics came about rather comically, when his former boss, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, texted Flores to congratulate him on having landed the Giants job — even though Flores had yet to be interviewed. Apparently, Belichick meant to text another Brian, the man who ultimately got the job, Brian Daboll. He’s white.
Then came the comment from former quarterback and current analyst Boomer Esiason that the Giants had offered the job to Daboll days before they announced it formally.
Mind you, this is all speculation, but the allegations make sense: 1) the Giants decided to hire Daboll before the formal interviewing process ended; 2) football VIPs such as Belichick and Esiason were in the know; and 3) the interview with Flores was a mere formality, necessary to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
The timing demonstrates poor taste on the Giants’ part, and if indeed their decision to hire Daboll was final before even speaking with Flores, then it may be a violation of the Rooney Rule. But it has nothing to do with racism.
My field is not professional football; it’s education, and I know a great deal about how things work. When an educational institution seeks to hire a new principal, department chair or even president, the powers that be often already have their pick in mind. Why take a chance on a stranger when you feel more secure promoting someone from within with whom you’ve worked for years?
But it’s not that simple — far too many policies, protocols and procedures demand full and open searches. These extensive, often nationwide searches can take months, sadly disappointing dozens if not hundreds of hopeful applicants who didn’t realize they never had a chance. It was all a façade, an elaborate dog-and-pony show to demonstrate good faith in opening the search to the outside world. In reality, the candidate with the inside track had the job in the bag all along. And, again, it has nothing to do with race.
Flores seems to be the poor schmuck who was humored for a while. The Giants were compelled to interview a minority, and the recently fired Flores was a great choice to check off that box.
Following the announcement of his lawsuit, Flores accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of being angry with him for not losing more games so that the Dolphins’ poor record would land them a high pick in the subsequent draft and even offering Flores a $100,000 bonus for every game he lost. Ross has vehemently denied the charges, calling them absolutely false and defamatory. This is a classic “he said, she said” issue.
Moreover, because Flores’ lawsuit involves the entire league, it may uncover instances of actual personnel decisions based on race. I doubt it, though, because sports is one of the most wonderful examples of anti-racism there is. There is no color on a football field; the object of the game is to win, and you’re going to put in the personnel that gives you the best chance of doing that.
Black Americans, for example, comprise a little over 14 percent of the population, yet more than 57 percent of NFL players. Apparently, owners have no qualms about signing black players if they’re the best at their position, so why would they draw the line at head coaches?
Ironically, another Flores, Tom (no relation to Brian), is a Hall of Fame inductee who has the honor of being one of only two individuals (Mike Ditka is the other) to win the Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He also happens to be Hispanic. Statistics like those may hurt Brian Flores’ case.
What’s evident about the whole Giants interview façade is that there’s absolutely no indication Flores would have had a greater chance of landing the head coaching job if he were white. The matter has absolutely nothing to do with racism.
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