NFL plans Rooney Rule for women interviewing for exec roles

Ben Margot/AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league will institute a Rooney Rule that applies to women interviewing for executive positions with the league.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday at the NFL Women’s Summit that the league will institute a Rooney Rule for women seeking executive positions. Teams will have to interview at least one woman for all executive roles.

The Rooney Rule, named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who’s chairman of the league’s diversity committee, is an edict established in 2003 which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a head-coaching vacancy.

The rule has come under scrutiny for failing to result in an increased number of minority head coaches; of the league’s 32 teams, there are just six minority head coaches. Teams have been accused of interviewing minority candidates simply to comply with the rule while already knowing they were hiring a white candidate.

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Another factor is the Rooney Rule only applies to head-coaching positions, which results in a small number of minority coaches working their way up the assistant coaching ranks and have a better resume to earn a head-coaching job. This issue could rear its head with the new Rooney-like rule for women as it relates to executive positions if women don’t have what teams feel is the requisite experience for such jobs.

Proponents of the Rooney Rule point out that it gives minority coaches a platform and can lift their profile. Current Jets coach Todd Bowels said that he interviewed nine or 10 times before being hired by New York. Panthers coach Ron Rivera interviewed for eight head coaching jobs before getting hired in Carolina.

“You can see that progress is being made,” Goodell said of the league’s efforts to diversify its coaching staffs and front offices.

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Ben Margot/AP

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks at the NFL’s Women’s Summit in San Francisco.

The Bills hired the NFL’s first full-time assistant coach last month, Kathryn Smith, as special teams quality control coach.

That move came after Jen Welter coached the Cardinals’ inside linebackers during Arizona’s training camp last summer, while Sarah Thomas became the league’s first female official this past season.

“I think this should be the Al Davis rule,” former Oakland CEO Amy Trask, the NFL’s first female CEO, said on Twitter of the late Raiders owner. “Hope my reasoning is clear.”

— With News Wire Services

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