As the most popular professional sport in the country, the NFL is in the public eye. Along with competitive play on the field, the league has committed itself to be an agent of change in society.
On Thursday (Dec. 7), the NFL held a session with the media members and several league executives to reveal its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and social justice efforts. The session emphasized the league’s collective goals, commitments, and progress. Highlighting key aspects of the NFL’s Impact Report, which is a detailed summary of Inspire Changes’ multifaceted push for social justice, the league revealed the success of its programming over the last few years and how it could improve in the future.
Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer shared numerous benchmarks that the league has reached as a result of implementing various DEI programs that target minorities.
“We have a strong DEI approach with the clubs in the league and all areas of our business. We are in the process of developing a diverse workforce across the NFL as a result of our DEI-focused programs,” Beane said. “Within the league office, we're committed to attracting and developing the most talented workforce of any sports league. This means we take a great deal of care in interviewing and identifying diverse candidates for both the central league office and our clubs.
“We truly understand that improving diversity and inclusion takes time and accountability. Yet, we also certainly have a sense of urgency behind this,” Beane continued. “We all want short-term outcomes but our strategies are designed for long term.”
Some of the initiatives that the league has instituted included the NFL Coach and Front Office Accelerator Program, the Assistant Coaching Program, and Women's Career in Football increased involvement of people of color and women throughout various roles in the league.
“51 percent of the league at the clubs are women and people of color and this is the first time that this has happened. We are the majority-minority at the clubs, that's an all-time high. Also for people of color, executive roles have jumped considerably from 13 percent in 2020 to 22 percent this year,” Beane said, " For women in football operations, we've seen tremendous growth of percent and in 2020 percent in that same span. This is a total growth of 141 percent over the last four seasons.”
While Mike Tomlin, Todd Bowles, and DeMarco Ryans are the only African American head coaches in the league, the numbers for offensive and defensive coordinators, which is considered the top position for aspiring head coaches, are trending in the right direction. The league also saw an increase in people of color becoming general managers. Last year Sandra Douglass Morgan made history when she became the first Black woman to be named president of an NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders.
“The number of (Black, Brown, and women) coaches continues to go up. In 2020, it was 35 percent and in 2023 we’re at 43 percent with 14 of our defensive coordinators being people of color,” Beane explained. “We have an all-time high in regards to general managers with nine. We have six people of color, who are club presidents. We're very proud of the tremendous growth over the last two and a half to three years.”
Anna Isaacson, Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility for the league, shared the NFL’s efforts to advance the cause of social justice through the Inspire Change initiative. In the coming weeks, the league plans on “sharing stories from grant partners, the launch of in-stadium activations on game days, announcing a new set of national Inspire Change grant partners.”
“We're also really excited to recognize 32 New Inspire Change Changemakers from each club for their exemplary support of social justice in their communities. Each of these Changemakers will receive a $10,000 grant from the NFL Foundation to their social justice charity of choice,” Isaacson said.
The league also has partnered with organizations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, the Contract with Black America, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, and the US Black Chamber of Commerce to strengthen its diversity aims. In June, the league secured $78 million in loans from minority banks, to support diverse business owners.
Although the league has made tremendous strides to promote inclusion on all levels within the league and throughout society, it's fully aware that there is much work to live up to its vision of equality in the boardroom, on the field, and off the field. With a diverse and forward-thinking leadership team in place, the plan is to capitalize on its momentum of empowering and entertaining at the same time.
“We're focused on working with the clubs to improve diversity up and down the ranks of the NFL in their organizations,” Beane said. “It’s really the humans-to-human connection, and building relationships that hopefully are long-standing.”
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