INGLEWOOD, Calif. — On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked about diversity and inclusion for the 32 head-coaching spots in the league. He spoke about evaluating the Rooney Rule and bringing in independent evaluators to look at why the league hasn't hired more Black head coaches. He said he wanted better results.
It was hard to take his words too seriously since he acknowledged the first question at his pre-Super Bowl news conference last year was about the same subject. Actions will matter, and Goodell said when discussing the opportunities for Black coaches during the latest head-coaching cycle, "We fell short of that by a long shot."
Goodell said he was satisfied with how many Black coaches were interviewed, but he said they aren't being hired at a high enough rate. Of the nine openings in this cycle, the Houston Texans hired Lovie Smith, who is Black, and the Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is multi-racial.
"What we want to see is the outcome,” Goodell said at the SoFi Stadium campus during his annual Super Bowl media conference. "We want to see Black head coaches in the NFL and people of color and eventually gender, so it’s an inclusive process and hopefully an inclusive outcome."
Brian Flores vs. NFL at forefront of Goodell's address
The NFL had a few headlines leading up to Super Bowl week that had nothing to do with the game, but the lack of diversity among coaches was the main topic. Goodell started his media conference by discussing that topic after NFL Network host MJ Acosta-Ruiz asked a few opening questions about it. Usually Goodell starts his media conference with positive statements about the Super Bowl and the state of the league.
Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a racial discrimination lawsuit last week, claiming teams weren’t taking interviews with him seriously (specifically calling out the New York Giants for a “sham” interview, a claim the Giants refuted), and also accusing Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of leaning on him to tank games during the 2019 season for better draft position and offering him $100,000 for each loss.
Goodell was asked about that claim with Ross, and said that and other accusations by Flores were "very disturbing."
"We are going to look into that," Goodell said about the Ross claim. "We are going to make sure, if there are violations, they won’t be tolerated."
Goodell bypassed speaking about the lawsuit specifically but said he wanted to listen to Flores' claims and that "I admire and respect Coach [Flores] a lot."
Black coaches being passed over for head-coaching jobs was a big story the past few weeks as teams filled open jobs. On Monday, civil rights leaders met with Goodell and called for the league to replace the Rooney Rule.
Goodell admitted the NFL's entire process will be reevaluated including the Rooney Rule. Flores' lawsuit brought about a new round of discussions on inclusion in hiring.
"That will go through the legal process. It’s really more important to talk about what Coach Flores was talking about and what other coaches are talking about with respect to what really is happening In the hiring process, what's not leading us to the results we expect to have" Goodell said.
"I think we have made a tremendous amount of progress in a lot of areas, but not at the head coach."
Roger Goodell says he's partly responsible
Goodell was asked about the league's history hiring people of color not in just head coach positions but all positions of power.
"We have to do a better job," Goodell said.
Goodell was asked if he bears some responsibility as NFL commissioner over the lack of Black head coaches through the years.
"Yes I do," Goodell said. "That is something we all have to bear responsibly for, me as commissioner also."
The Denver Broncos are for sale and Goodell said the league is seeking a person of color or a woman as the new primary owner to help add a diverse voice to the group.
"We think that would be a positive step for us and something we’ve encouraged," Goodell said.
There was also a new round of misconduct allegations directed at the Washington Commanders franchise owned by Daniel Snyder. Multiple women, including former cheerleader Tiffani A. Johnston, told HBO’s “Real Sports” podcast and Congress about alleged harassment and misconduct when they were with the team.
"I think we treat that very seriously and we need to look into that," Goodell said.
Washington announced it would start an investigation, and then shortly the NFL said it would handle the investigation. Many also were critical of news that broke that Snyder had veto power over the release of any information from the league’s investigation into sexual harassment in the organization.
"That’s a legal agreement, I can’t explain all that, but it didn’t interfere with anything we did in regards to the Washington investigation," Goodell said.