Blacks were center stage during halftime, but they’re missing in the NFL’s roster of coaches

Publications/News & Insights/News/Blacks were center stage during halftime, but they’re missing in the NFL’s roster of coaches

Article source: The Miami Herald

The Super Bowl lived up to its usual hype. Black people on the field, an ad listing all of the NFL’s Black philanthropy efforts and a historic first — a halftime show led by rap royalty.

The theatrics were almost enough to make you forget that just a couple of weeks ago, Brian Flores, the Miami Dolphins’ former coach, launched a lawsuit against the NFL that rocked the sports world — and reminded us that the status quo remains the same.

Flores, an Afro-Latino of Honduran descent, sued the NFL and three teams, alleging discrimination around his interview processes with Denver and New York and, later, his firing last month by Miami.

While many may have found this shocking, Flores’ claims are par for the course in corporate America where plugging in Black and brown people and running a song and dance with no intent for meaningful cultural or structural change, are commonplace.

Black History Month teaches us that change does not come without struggle. More important, it reminds us that sustained systemic issues still exist and thrive under the guise of inclusivity and representation.

Our recent paper that focused on the continuing challenges of achieving diversity, equity and inclusion — DEI — in the corporate structure found that, overall, Black executives felt that they were often tasked with carrying the water for the organization when it came to diverse recruitment efforts, in addition to performing their own jobs.

Many of the Black executives interviewed also echoed Flores’ sentiments of not only becoming the poster child for all Black people across the organization, but having to overachieve, over-deliver and overperform to secure those positions in the first place.

Analysis of the NFL’s own track record seems to support this notion. A study done by sports website The Undefeated in 2019 found that from 2009 to 2018, nonwhite head coaches not only averaged much shorter tenures than their white counterparts, they were less likely to secure a second head coaching position afterward.

As Flores highlighted and Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr put it, they get “half the runway of their white counterparts, requiring gargantuan expectations to succeed in impossible scenarios.”

To truly move the needle, corporate leaders in sports and elsewhere need to issue CEO-led and organization-wide mandates that create a culture and collaboration from the top down and the inside out.

A more-holistic approach to the problem, one led by an accountability-driven strategy, would mean enacting more board oversight and governance, strengthening ties to compensation, improving succession planning and implementing a sharper focus on employee engagement, vendor programs and philanthropy initiatives.

The NFL could take a page out of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) playbook, which took a public position in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to bring forth “collective action to combat systemic racism and racial inequality across the country.” And it is delivering.

As part of its comprehensive strategy, the NBA teamed up with its players, formed internal task forces, built coalitions, supported foundations and funneled donations to racial-justice organizations in order to sustain the momentum that the league and players had embraced.

They later inserted themselves in civil discourse and engaged communities by opening their arenas to serve as polling sites and turned their courts into billboards that called for education reform and an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

While the NBA has certainly had missteps along the way, it has taken the right approach and understands that achieving true, sustained DEI is a long game. It is not a problem that will be solved overnight by propping up Black and brown people or employing DEI heads who have not truly been given power or support to effect change for the organization.

As the organization with the most visible, influential and powerful platform worldwide, during Black History Month, the NFL has a real opportunity to do better and lead in this conversation. If not for making the world and corporate America a better place for all, then at least for being less ironic during the halftime show.

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