NFL's Rooney Rule Outdated: An Example of Unnecessary Racial Discrimination

Dan OrlandoContributor IIFebruary 11, 2011

Perry Fewell, shown here with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick during his time as Interim Head Coach in Buffalo, has yet to land a permanent Head Coaching job.
Perry Fewell, shown here with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick during his time as Interim Head Coach in Buffalo, has yet to land a permanent Head Coaching job.Marc Serota/Getty Images

A segment during last night’s O’Reilly Factor featured a Princeton University professor (who happened to be an African-American woman) asking American’s to “vote with their wallets” and boycott Pepsi products because of their memorable Super Bowl spot. 

The ad featured an African-American couple consisting of a domineering female partner and the male counterpart whose diet and lifestyle she was critiquing/altering. The ad ultimately concludes in the girlfriend/wife (never specified) accidentally hurling a PepsiMax can at a white woman whom her partner was admiring. 

The professor made the argument that this commercial had racial undertones and was thus offensive to both women and African Americans. She felt that it fed a negative stereotype that paints African American women as abusive and controlling.  

Bill O’Reilly disagreed, stating that he saw no racial undertones. He saw a universally relatable life situation that many couples (regardless of ethnicity) experience. In this instance, I agree with him.

I bring this up because I find it relevant to the recent Perry Fewell interviews and the Rooney Rule discussions. Are we as a nation, truly taking steps forward regarding equality? If every human being is indeed equal, are institutions such as the Rooney Rule constructive or destructive?

There was a time in both general American history and sports history that certain advantages needed to be given to level the playing field. However, the NFL has now seen several African-American head coaches. Two of those coaches, Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin, led their team to Super Bowl wins.

The ruling in question, which mandates that all teams that wish to acquire a head coach interview a minority candidate before making a hire, was put in place in 2003. The argument could be made that even then the rule was unnecessary considering that Ozzie Newsome had already become the first African-American GM a year earlier.

Regardless, there is no question that eight years later the Rooney Rule is completely unnecessary if not detrimental.

There is no doubting Fewell’s credentials as a defensive coordinator. He is a talented professional with a resume and highlight film to prove it. It will be those two aspects of his professional life that will or will not land him a coaching job. The NFL has reached that point. Frankly, America has reached that point. 

Racism, whether it be in sports or any other arena, can only exist if ethnicity continues to enter into equations such as employment. Just as a domineering girlfriend could have any skin color, a good or bad coach could be any race. 

The sensitivity surrounding the issue creates problems where there simply are none.  Fewell is still on Tom Coughlin’s staff (and not in charge of his own) because he was not the best candidate for the jobs he was considered for. He would have been no better qualified if he were white, brown or lime green.