NFL teams urged to hire more African-Americans for executive positions

Alliance of black coaches and players want teams to interview at least one minority candidate for senior positions

The National Football League is being urged to increase the diversity of front-office staff by the same group that got the NFL to increase opportunities for African-Americans to become head coaches.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of nearly 200 black coaches and front-office personnel in the NFL, wants teams to interview at least one African-American candidate for general manager and other senior executive positions, the same policy the NFL already has in place for hiring head coaches.

Kellen Winslow, a former football player and head of the alliance, said the NFL needs more prodding to ensure diversity in management ranks.

Among the 32 NFL teams, three blacks have general-manager powers: James Harris, vice-president of player personnel for the Jacksonville Jaguars; Ozzie Newsome, the general manager for the Baltimore Ravens; and Rod Graves, vice-president of football operations for the Arizona Cardinals.

Harris said efforts by the NFL’s committee on workplace diversity are sincere, but more work is needed.

“I see a limited number of executives in key decision-making capabilities,” Harris said in an interview quoted in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I think there is an imbalance. There are more capable African-Americans that are not getting opportunities.”

But Greg Aiello, a spokesperson for the NFL, said the league has no plans of expanding the program that applies to head-coaching positions to executive openings.

“The key issue has been the head coaching position,” said Aiello. “That is why we have responded in this way. In the meantime, there are more African-American (executives) than ever before. The committee does not believe it makes sense to go beyond head coaches at this time.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance has two high-profile lawyers — Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri — who are considering stepping up public pressure on the league by conducting a formal study that examines the racial makeup of front-office hires.

Cochran and Mehri were behind a statistical report released in September 2002 that nudged the NFL into its current policy of interviewing at least one black candidate for head-coaching positions. That report concluded that “black coaches are last hired and first fired, despite outperforming their white counterparts.”

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