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The National Football League -- The Rooney Rule

Feb. 9, 2022

The NFL adopted the Rooney Rule in 2003 based on recommendations made by the league’s Workplace Diversity Committee. It was named after then-chairman of the committee, Dan Rooney, the late owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In effect the NFL is attempting to do more than just placing the “End Racism:” logo on players’ helmets.

Over the years, the Rooney Rule has expanded to include a greater number of positions across NFL clubs. In 2009, the policy was amended to include general manager jobs and equivalent front-office positions, requiring each team to interview a minimum of two external minority candidates.

In November 2020, team owners approved a proposal rewarding teams who developed minority talent that went on to become GMs or head coaches across the league. If a team lost a minority executive or coach to another team, that team would receive a third-round compensatory pick for two years. If a team lost both a coach and personnel member, it would receive a third-round compensatory pick for three years. Then, in 2021, the NFL approved changes requiring every team to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job. Additionally, at least one minority and/or female candidate must be interviewed for senior level positions including for the club president and other senior executives. In recent years, the National Football League Workplace Diversity Committee has proposed additional changes to strengthen the Rooney Rule. The updates “bolster the current Rooney Rule requirements and are intended to create additional opportunities for diverse candidates to be identified, interviewed, and ultimately hired when a vacancy becomes available,” including:

  • Clubs must interview at least two diverse candidates from the Career Development Advisory Panel list, or a diverse candidate not currently employed by the club.

  • Clubs must conduct an in-person interview with at least one external minority candidate for any GM or head coaching interview

  • Clubs must continue to consider multiple diverse candidates.

  • Clubs must maintain complete records and provide them to the league upon the Commissioner’s request.

  • If the final decision maker is involved from the beginning of the hiring process, they must be involved through the conclusion of the process.

In light of recent lawsuits, this Rooney Rule is going to be mentioned in the press and during virtually all professional football games and talk shows This attention on this Rooney Rule may permeate to practices in hiring beyond the hiring of management positions in professional sports. It may be adopted in areas of traditional business employment and hiring.