Marvin Lewis: Rooney Rule proposal involving draft incentives 'like having Jim Crow laws'

Cassandra Negley
·3 min read

The NFL is seeking ways to improve diversity in the coaching and management ranks, but its approaches aren’t well received by all.

The league announced changes to the Rooney Rule this week, but tabled the part of it that included draft pick incentives for hiring minorities. It was a controversial proposal that drew criticism from some, including former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.

Lewis criticizes Rooney Rule proposal

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis stands on the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis equated the Rooney Rule proposal to Jim Crow laws. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Lewis coached the Bengals for 15 seasons before being let go in 2018. He’s now a co-defensive coordinator at Arizona State under former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards.

“It was offensive, definitely offensive,” Lewis said, via Mike Preston at the Baltimore Sun. “It was like having Jim Crow laws.”

The proposal offered teams that hired a minority candidate better draft spots depending on what position was hired and how long he or she is kept on the job. Jim Crow laws were in place for about 100 years and legalized racial segregation at the local and state level. They were taken off the books in the 1960s when various civil rights acts were enacted.

Dungy, Lynn criticize idea of draft pick reward

Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said it was a drastic measure and he has never “been in favor of rewarding people for doing the right thing.” On the #PFTPM podcast, Dungy said other several African American coaches have issues with the proposal.

Los Angeles Charges coach Anthony Lynn was also outwardly critical of the idea.

“I think sometimes you can do the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing,” Lynn said on CBS Sports Radio late last week.

Lynn is one of four minority head coaches in the league out of 32. Two teams have minority general managers.

NFL expands Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule was created in 2002 and requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring for the head coach or general manager job. A lot of teams have gotten through this by holding “sham” interviews.

The expanded rule requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates. They are also now required to interview at least one minority candidate for coordinator, general manager and senior football operations positions. Executive positions are also included in the rule, with teams required to “include minorities and/or female applicants in the interview processes.”

That received support from Lewis, among others.

“We had come a long way as far as assistant coaches, but we never made any inroads in management,” Lewis said, via the Baltimore Sun. “This will be a plus requiring more than one minority to be interviewed because it will cause them to take a deeper dive. This will allow more minorities more opportunities.”

It also bars teams from blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions with other teams. That’s a win for coaches of all races and genders.

[H/T USA Today Sports]

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