NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: Results of efforts to promote diversity within head coaches 'unacceptable'

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo Saturday morning to all 32 teams in which he said "we must acknowledge" that the results of their efforts to promote diversity with respect to head coaches "have been unacceptable."

Goodell's memo is his first reported comments since former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit this week in Manhattan federal court against the NFL and three of its teams -- the Broncos, Dolphins and Giants -- alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices and racial discrimination.

In the memo, Goodell says that the league will reevaluate all "policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender." The league also will retain "outside experts to assist in this review," according to the memo.

"I want to address a subject that many of us have discussed together, not only this week, but consistently for many years," Goodell said in the memo obtained by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. "Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL's values. We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable. We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender. We are retaining outside experts to assist in this review and will also solicit input from current and former players and coaches, advocates and other authorities in this area. Our goal is simple: make our efforts and those of the clubs more effective so that real and tangible results will be achieved.

"We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week. While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In particular, we recognize the need to understand the lived experiences of diverse members of the NFL family to ensure that everyone has access to opportunity and is treated with respect and dignity."

Flores' attorneys, Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, issued a statement Saturday, obtained by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, in response to Goodell's memo.

"For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, all while letting systemic racial bias fester in its front offices," Wigdor and Elefterakis said. "The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed."

So far in the 2022 hiring cycle, six of the nine head coach vacancies have been filled. All six of the hires, including one that is expected to become official after the Super Bowl, have been white men.

Flores, who is Black, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three seasons. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.

Flores' lawsuit alleges that the league has discriminated against Flores and other Black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.

The lawsuit also alleges Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach's first season because he wanted the club to "tank" so it could get the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which was eventually used by the Cincinnati Bengals to select quarterback Joe Burrow.

Ross issued a statement Wednesday night in which he said he takes "great personal exception to these malicious attacks."

Goodell said in Saturday's memo that the NFL takes "seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games. These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently. We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds."

In addition, Flores' lawsuit alleges that the Giants and Broncos engaged in "sham" interviews with Flores in 2022 and 2019, respectively, in an effort to fulfill the Rooney Rule.

The Giants and Broncos have each denied the allegations in Flores' suit.

In 2020, the NFL amended the Rooney Rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.

"There is much work to do," Goodell said to conclude the memo, "and we will embrace this moment and seize the opportunity to become a stronger, more inclusive league."

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