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Civil rights leaders call on the NFL to replace the Rooney Rule

Civil rights leaders who met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday called for the league to establish specific recruiting and hiring procedures for executive and coaching positions, with meaningful consequences for teams that do not abide by the rules.
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Civil rights leaders who met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday called for the league to establish specific recruiting and hiring procedures for executive and coaching positions, with meaningful consequences for teams that do not abide by the rules.

A group of U.S. civil rights leaders called for the NFL to replace the Rooney Rule — along with several other changes regarding recruiting and hiring procedures for positions throughout the League.

Leaders from the NAACP, National Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Action Network and National African American Clergy Network requested to meet with the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, after former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Giants, Broncos and Dolphins — accusing them of racial discrimination.

Flores' lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for all Black head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterback coaches as well as general managers and African American candidates for those positions.

The Rooney Rule, a policy that went into effect in 2003, requires teams to interview candidates of color for head coaching and senior operation vacancies.

In a meeting Monday, the leaders called on Goodell to replace the existing rule and for the League to examine the specific recruiting and hiring procedures when it comes to its executive and coaching positions. The group also called for "meaningful consequences for teams that do not abide by the rules."

"However well-intentioned, the effect of the Rooney Rule has been for team decision-makers to regard interviews with candidates of color as an extraneous step, rather than an integral part of the hiring process," said National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial in a statement to NPR.

He notes that the NFL currently only has one Black head coach, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin — two fewer than when the rule was established. David Culley, who is also Black, was fired by the Houston Texans at the end of the regular season.

"The gravity of the situation is long past the crisis point," Morial continued.

National Action Network (NAN) Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton Sharpton said the organization will be approaching states and municipalities to "stop public funding and tax incentives" to NFL stadiums until the goals presented by the leaders are met.

"The Rooney Rule has been proven to be something the owners used to deceptively appear to be seeking real diversity," Sharpton said in a statement. "We must have firm targets and timetables."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Associated Press that the group had a "productive and thoughtful conversation," saying the league is aiming to establish "equitable access to opportunity" for everyone.

"We look forward to continuing the dialogue," McCarthy said.

The leaders from the five organizations said they welcomed Goodell's announcement of an independent review of the NFL's diversity, equity and inclusion policies and initiatives, but that civil rights and racial justice community must be part of that review.

"It's simply not enough for the League to declare its good intentions," NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said. "This is a long-standing crisis that must be confronted with diligence and rigor."

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Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.