NFL receives high marks for racial diversity hiring from study

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL received its highest grade ever for racial diversity hiring practices, but the league is still behind on hiring women.

The annual report card by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida on Wednesday gave the NFL its first 'A' on racial hiring practices in 18 years. The high mark was in large part because of sustained progress hiring black coaches; the effectiveness of the "Rooney Rule," which requires a minority to be interviewed for head coaching and senior football operations positions; and the recent creation of a vice president and chief diversity officer in the league office.

The NFL earned a 'C' for gender hiring and an overall grade of 'B.' Those were the same marks as last year, tying the best the league has received.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute, said the upsurge in minority hiring shows the Rooney Rule, approved in 2002, has been a successful measure in racial hiring practices.

"The criticism of the rule is that there will be bogus interviews just to satisfy the rule. But over and over, you see that minority coaches are getting jobs," Lapchick said. "Even if they don't get the job the first time, the interview gives owners a chance to meet coaches they might not have and hire them the next time."

The study, based on information provided by the NFL, also shows the league has been slow hiring women.

The percentage of women in management positions in the league office decreased from 27.6 to 27.5, women in team professional administrator positions went down by 1 percent, and there was a 2 percent decrease for women in senior administrator positions, according to the study. The number of women vice presidents increased by five, the only major stride in gender hiring.

"A very slight decline overall," Lapchick said, "but in an area already needing improvement."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: "We appreciate Richard Lapchick's work. His report and comments speak for themselves. We will continue to emphasize the importance of diversity in our hiring practices."

The NFL has six black head coaches and five black general managers among 32 teams entering this season, the same as last year. The study also notes that the first minority head coaches in the Super Bowl the last four seasons has had a major influence in racial hiring practices.

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith were the first black head coaches to reach the Super Bowl in 2007. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin followed with a Super Bowl win in 2009, and Jim Caldwell led the Colts back to the Super Bowl last season.

"The upsurge in minority head coaches in the Super Bowl has been probably as much important if not more important than the Rooney Rule," Lapchick said. "They have eliminated false perceptions and created more opportunities for minorities."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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