Evan’s Mindset: The NFL’s racism problem and a need for change 

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FILE – Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, left, stands with Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Denver, Jan. 1, 2017. John Elway is refuting Brian Flores’ claim in a lawsuit that his interview with the Denver Broncos in 2019 was a sham and only conducted to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule. Flores said in the lawsuit that Elway, then the team’s general manager, and president/CEO Joe Ellis showed up an hour late for his interview at a Providence, Rhode Island hotel, and they “looked completely disheveled and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.” Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP Photo.

“Morals cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. The law cannot make an employer love me, but it can keep him from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin.” 

This Martin Luther King Jr. quote stands at the center of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL and three NFL teams — the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins — for discrimination. It’s an additional blemish on the sport of football that the NFL refuses to take appropriate action on. 

It’s a dark and harsh reality, but it’s the clear-cut truth. It’s the same truth that NFL owners and executives must face to maintain the integrity and justification of their sport. It’s a dilemma that is due for much-needed change. 

The NFL is the most racist sports league in America. The same league made up of 70% of Black players just can’t seem to find a proper way to treat them with the respect they deserve. It may even trump the MLB’s own racism issues, where players in Boston must face a barrage of racial slurs thrown toward them while playing the game they love.  

The NFL’s problems stem from more than just coaching. The situation with Flores is just one of numerous examples that show the dirty facts of a league that continues to profit off Black men. These are the same league executives who turn a blind eye as they sit in luxury boxes and watch Black NFL players earn money while sustaining life-threatening injuries. Yet, NFL executives don’t care to do anything about it. They’re just looking at the cash in their pockets. 

This is the same league that used “race-norming” for years as a way to avoid paying numerous Black players their rightful share of a $1 billion concussion settlement. That’s simply because of their difference in skin color.  

It’s the same league that allowed the Washington Commanders to operate under a racial slur for many years, until enough backlash by Native American groups forced the team to change its name. 

“Morals cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. The law cannot make an employer love me, but it can keep him from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin.” 

Martin Luther King Jr.

It doesn’t stop there either. Let’s turn the attention back to the NFL’s coaching situation. In 2002, the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule, a way to combat the lack of minority coaching in the NFL by requiring teams to interview at least one minority coach. That sounds like a step in the right direction, right? In 2022, it’s a loud no. Instead of advancing with the world and pushing the power of Black leadership, the league has decided to stick with just two African-American head coaches: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and new Houston Texans hire Lovie Smith.  

With Troy Vincent, the executive vice president of football operations for the NFL, admitting to the league’s “double standard” for hiring Black leadership in its sport, it begs the question of how they can improve. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is reportedly frustrated with the NFL’s hiring process of coaches during the 2022 offseason, but that’s effectively worthless without action. How can a sport so rampant with racist opinions and actions evolve to become at least morally acceptable in today’s era? 

Whether it’s reform amongst top league executives or more drastic, there is an absolute need for change in the NFL. A league that has carried so many racist actions against coaches and players can’t operate under its current structure. It’s time to change for the better, and 2022 is a great year to begin that change.  

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