Thursday, December 17, 2009

Complying With The Rooney Rule

This headline ran across the USA Today website today: Redskins say they 'over-complied' with Rooney Rule; Roger Goodell confirms it. What is the "Rooney Rule" and how can you "over-comply" with it? And why are we writing about this on a Human Resources blog? Let's explore.

First, let's define the "Rooney Rule". From
The Rooney Rule is named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and was established in 2003. With an eye towards balancing minority candidates with other hires, the rule mandates that all coaching searches interview at least one minority candidate. As of 2009, there are almost four times as many African American head coaches in the NFL than there were prior to the rule.
Seems pretty straightforward on the surface. In 2003 there was a lack of minority head coaches in the NFL and the league decided to institute a rule that every team must interview at least one minority candidate for head coach. Since then, the amount of African American head coaches in the NFL has grown, and the Rooney Rule, as wrote in 2007, was credited with opening the doors.

In June, the NFL extended the Rooney Rule to include openings for "general manager jobs and equivalent front-office positions" according to the Washington Post who explains this isn't always the case: "[The Rooney Rule] will not apply to a case in which a team's top front-office job is held or filled by the franchise's owner or a member of his or her family, or in a case in which a team has an existing contractual obligation to promote a member of its front-office staff."

So that's how we got to our headline today. Pro Football Talk Daily taped a segment that said they were concerned the Rooney Rule could not have been followed because the resignation and hiring of personnel chief Vinny Cerrato and hiring of Bruce Allen as the Redskins General Manager occurred within an hour. Now here's where the rule gets tricky. The Redskins say they have complied with the rule and cannot divulge the minority candidate(s) interviewed because it would not be fair to them. And the Commissioner Office has backed them up. So they will not face a fine for this infraction as other franchises have.

Some criticize the rule like the National League Policy Center calling it "Pro Football's Affirmative Action Deception". But many laud the rule like Brian W. Collins for the NYU Law Review and some are trying to extend the rule even further, especially to the college football ranks where minority head coaching hovers around 6%, as Michael J. Nichols writes in the Virginia Sports & Entertainment Law Journal. Many of these leagues are worried they may face lawsuits if they do not do more to consider hiring minority coaches but they are getting push back about implementation from many levels.

Do you think that this is a good way to go about promoting minority hiring? Do you think a "good-faith interview" is enough or do you think that too many token candidates get passed over because of that? And how could this apply to other venues besides sports?

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