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Opinion: Another Black coach is fired, and the NFL goes on acting like it's inclusive

·4 min read
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Never forget what the NFL really is.

League officials worked overtime Thursday to show how progressive the NFL is, letting everyone know a woman is being considered for the general manager’s job with the Minnesota Vikings. But the lie of its supposed “inclusion” was exposed just a few hours later when the Houston Texans fired David Culley, leaving the NFL with one Black head coach.

Yes, you read that right. One. In a league where more than two-thirds of the players are Black.

It’s embarrassing, it’s disgraceful and it’s shameful. It is also utterly on brand for a league whose owners are, almost exclusively, a bunch of old, privileged white men who don’t consider people of color, or women, as their equals, and cannot fathom them capable of succeeding in such prominent positions.

Houston Texans head coach David Culley watches from the sideline during the first half of his team's NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Houston Texans head coach David Culley watches from the sideline during the first half of his team's NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Oh, they’ll let Black and brown people work for them. But run their precious franchises, either on the field or in the front office? What’s next? Suggesting they put a person of color up for membership at their country club? Adding a woman to the foursome for their weekly golf outing?

NFL owners will surely take umbrage at such a characterization – or maybe they won’t, not seeing anything wrong with being a bigot. But every time they are given the opportunity to show they are of the same mind as Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office, which have made legitimate efforts to improve racial diversity, the owners reveal exactly who they are.

Culley, a highly respected offensive assistant, waited decades for an opportunity to be a head coach. When he finally got his chance, the Texans gave him the equivalent of a house on the verge of being condemned. The Texans had already run off DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt, two of their best players, and franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson was demanding to be traded.

Houston later shelved Watson after he was accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits by nearly two dozen women.

Yet Culley still managed to coax the Texans to a 4-13 record that included wins over the Tennessee Titans, the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and the Los Angeles Chargers. And for that, Culley was fired.

In the 32-team NFL, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is now the only Black head coach. Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team and Robert Saleh of the New York Jets are the only other people of color.

For those keeping score, that’s the same number as there were in 1993. And 2003, the year the Rooney Rule was instituted in an effort to improve minority hiring.

Is now a good time to mention that Texans owner Cal McNair had to issue an apology after using a racial slur during the team’s charity golf tournament last year? Or that it was his late father, Robert McNair, who made the “inmates running the prison” comment when players were protesting for social justice?

Even all the backslapping over the Vikings’ request to interview Catherine Raiche, currently the vice president of football operations for the Philadelphia Eagles, was bothersome.

Sure, it’s an important milestone. Just as it was when Cleveland’s Callie Brownson and Washington’s Jennifer King became the first women to coach position groups during a game, which both did last month.

But the NFL that is trumpeting these achievements is the same one that’s actively demeaning women by refusing to provide answers on the league’s investigation into the toxic, misogynistic atmosphere at the Washington Football Team. Or explain how owner Daniel Snyder didn’t interfere with that NFL investigation when he tried to block the attorney running it from speaking to a woman who’d accused Snyder of sexual misconduct.

A woman Snyder paid $1.6 million to go away, mind you.

NFL owners have had talented and experienced minority candidates all but gift-wrapped for them – the name Eric Bieniemy ring a bell? – and they’d still rather hire a 30-something white man who went to school with someone who knew the best friend of Sean McVay’s cousin. They’ve had the purchasing power of women and their percentage of the league’s fan base pointed out to them, and they still persist in thinking it’s a man’s game.

Changing the rules hasn’t worked. Neither has public shaming. The NFL and its owners are going to continue to be what they are.

A bigoted, outdated embarrassment.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texans fired David Culley, and NFL goes on acting like it's inclusive