Although the NFL has taken steps to improve its record on social justice issues, the overall consensus is that the league overall still comes up short when it comes to placing African Americans in leadership positions on its 32 teams. The issue was addressed during a series of videos that aired during the Super Bowl LV on Sunday, February 7.
Although 70 percent of players in the NFL are Black, the league started the season with only three Black head coaches and two general managers.
During the pregame coverage, CBS’ James Brown said, “When it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, team and league executives, and Black ownership, frankly, the track record is pitiful.”
The NFL’s history of racism is long. There were only two Black players in the 1920s. A decade later, team owners conspired to eliminate Black football players completely from their teams.
It wasn’t until 1946 that a Black player re-integrated the NFL when Kenny Washington signed with Los Angeles Rams.
Viola Davis lays out the history in this video, which was written by Washington, DC writer and filmmaker, Kayona Ebony Brown:
Fast forward to 2016, former Black quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a protest against police brutality and injustice against Black people by kneeling during the national anthem. It sparked controversy and little to no support from the NFL. Instead, Kaepernick was apparently blackballed by team owners who have refused even until this day to hire the Super Bowl quarterback.
The NFL also debuted a commercial called “Inspire Change” during the Super Bowl broadcast, spotlighting its moves toward social and racial justice over the past nine months:
The ad made no mention of Kaepernick and for many on social media, especially Black Twitter, the overtures to social justice during the Big Game were not convincing:
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Dereck Chauvin, the NFL claimed to have seen the light.
“We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, admitted.
(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images & Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)