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NFL preparing sizable changes to Rooney Rule

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (Credit: Getty Images)

National Football League team owners, meeting virtually on May 19 for their spring gathering instead of in person due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, are preparing sizable changes to the league’s Rooney Rule, which is aimed at boosting consideration of minorities for executive and coaching positions.

The league, according to multiple reports, will now require each club to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching positions, and at least one minority candidate for coordinator coaching jobs, and senior football operations and general manager positions. Expanded minority and female interview requirements will also apply to other senior-level positions such as club president jobs.

The shifts arrive as the NFL seeks to improve the Rooney Rule, which was created in 2003 to slow team hiring processes, broaden the pool of candidates for each available job, and improve overall opportunities in the league for minorities.

But in recent years, the rule’s efficacy, despite any good intentions, has faded noticeably as just three of the last 20 head coaching openings around the league have been filled by minorities, and minority interviews have been widely deemed as just temporary obstacles toward intended hires.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in his state-of-the-league press conference prior to Super Bow LIV acknowledged there was much more to do in this area.

“Clearly we are not where we want to be on this level,” Goodell said. “It’s clear we need to change. We have already begun discussing those changes, what steps we can take next to determine better outcomes.”

While changes to Rooney Rule itself do not require formal votes owners, they will vote on the meeting on two related proposals. The first will allow assistant coaches to be interviewed for coordinator jobs with other teams at any time, and prevent current teams from blocking those interviews. The second would provide teams elevated draft pick positions for hiring minority candidates as head coaches or lead football executives.