Thirty-two teams. Sixteen games. Three African-American head coaches. Those stats have been tattooed in the NFL’s Week 1 box score for months. Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith, and Todd Bowles are the lone Black coaches in the NFL this season due to new Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel identifying as “human.”
As the NFL gets ready for another season in which each week will be a reminder that half of the coaches in the NBA are Black, along with the fact that the XFL will have more Black coaches than them when they begin play in 2023, it’s a good time to remember an important story that’s been hanging over the league that no one seems to be talking about anymore.
It’s as if people have forgotten that Brian Flores, Ray Horton, and Steve Wilks have a class-action lawsuit against the league for its racist hiring practices, which led to the NFL hiring former Attorney General Loretta Lynch — the first Black woman to ever serve as the United States attorney general — to represent them. When you have to pay Black people to defend you against racism, you’re screwed.
If you go back 22 years, since 2000, only 26 Black men — sans Mike McDaniel — have been hired as head coaches in this league. Usually, they’re brought in to clean up impossible messes left by mediocre white coaches and are given a limited amount of time to fix things. After that, they usually return to being a coordinator, as Black coaches rarely get second chances at being head coaches on the pro level.
True equality will have been reached when there is a Black version of Jeff Fisher in the NFL. When Black coaches are allowed to go 8-8 every season and still be respected, that’s when true change will have occurred.
But, until then, we’re waiting to see what comes of Flores’ case. The latest news came a few weeks ago when Flores, Horton, and Wilks’ lawyers alleged racial bias against the NFL as the league wants this to go to arbitration — behind closed doors. In court documents, the lawyers wrote that “arbitration would allow ‘unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’ to determine the outcome.
Get this, if it isn’t decided that a jury will be involved, then NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be the arbitrator — automatically giving the league a win. It would also mean that for the second time in the last few years, the NFL would escape being exposed after the league settled with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid instead of letting this thing play out so the public could see just how dirty this league can be when you dare to kneel against police brutality and racism during the national anthem.
Important stuff, right? But, if you’ve been paying attention it doesn’t feel like it.
NFL preview stories about some of the big storylines for the upcoming season from sites like Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, Bally Sports, and even GQ Australia are focused on if the Bengals will have a Super Bowl hangover, quarterback controversies, if this is the year that the Buffalo Bills get over the hump, Tom Brady, or Deshaun Watson.
I guess a class-action lawsuit puts people to sleep.
Between the combination of the league wanting to get this over as soon as possible, and the Pittsburgh Steelers — where Flores is an assistant coach — playing on national TV a minimum of five times this season, this story isn’t one the NFL can hide from. And when things do eventually get figured out, I’m sure it will dominate headlines again. However, the fact that we already know that’s how these things work is one of the main reasons why the NFL got itself into this situation in the first place.