This weekend marks the first Black history Sunday of 2011, but it is also SUPERBOWL XLI. Mike McCarthy and the Greenbay Packers take on Mike Tomlin and his Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin, 38, represents only one out of seven NFL Black coaches. This season, while almost 25 percent of league management was African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American, or “other,” there are no NFL team owners of color.
Tomlin, like more than half of the current Black coaches, was brought in after the Rooney Rule was instated. Established in 2003 by the NFL’s head of diversity and Steeler owner, Dan Rooney, the Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching position, or be fined.
"Mike Tomlin wouldn't have gotten [that] opportunity without this rule…He never would have sat down with Dan Rooney," says Art Shell, the first African-American head coach hired by the Oakland Raiders in 1989.
On the other hand, Tomlin says, "I've always had a great deal of belief in my abilities and I thought that if I continued to work and do good things that eventually I would get my opportunity, Rooney Rule or not…But I definitely see the usefulness of such a rule. And if nothing else, it keeps some debatable things in the public light, which is good."
Whether the Rooney Rule helped Tomlin may be debatable, but there is no denying that it has had some effect on NFL hiring practices. Just prior to being implemented, only two African American head coaches existed in the NFL: Herman Edwards (New York Jets) and Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts).
Six out of the last eight Super Bowl teams have had either an African-American head coach or general manager, and if the Steelers win, Tomlin will be the first African American to lead his team to two Super Bowls (after having won SuperBowl XLIII in 2009).
And now with seemingly so much diversity, recently critics have deemed that there is no longer a need for the Rooney Rule. If the numbers tell the full story, is it time to stop this rule? Or is it still necessary?