Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL's coaching diversity again in spotlight after David Culley's firing

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's job looks secure, saving the NFL from the embarrassment of having no Black head coaches at allGetty Images

The Texans parting ways with David Culley drops the current number of Black head coaches to one, and that lack of representation should "bring extra scrutiny" to the eight teams that are looking for new coaches, according to Belson & Mather of the N.Y. TIMES (1/14). The AP’s Tim Dahlberg notes the Steelers' Mike Tomlin now is the lone Black head coach in the league, and his job “looks secure, saving the NFL from the embarrassment of having no Black coaches at all.” Despite new hiring rules and some years with “real progress,” it "seems like it is 1989 all over again." Nobody can “force a team owner to fill a vacancy with a Black coach," but in a league where 70% of the players are Black, "somehow, some way, there needs to be more" than one Black coach. As late as ‘17, there were eight minority head coaches -- seven of them Black. But instead of expanding, the “number has contracted.” It is telling that Black coaches who land their first head coaching job simply do not “get second and third chances like many white coaches before them” (AP, 1/14).

TEAMS NOT FOLLOWING LEAGUE'S LEAD: In K.C. Sam McDowell notes as the NFL “continues to promote diversity and inclusion with public marketing campaigns -- and even minority-hiring incentives” -- franchises “have moved in the opposite direction for leadership of their locker rooms” (K.C. STAR, 1/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Shalise Manza Young wrote there really is “no getting ahead” for Black coaches. Young: "These coaches are often handed a mop and bucket for the biggest messes. Clean it up, is the directive. Against the odds, when they start to get things tidied, they're gone. Modest success isn't enough success." She adds the past few years "offer little hope that Black coaches will ever gain any ground." For a league "allegedly driven by optics," team owners do not care that a growing number of people "see just how bigoted and behind the times they are" (, 1/13).

OWNERS SHOW TRUE COLORS: USA TODAY’s Nancy Armour writes the current state of minority coaches is "embarrassing," "disgraceful" and "shameful.” Armour: “It is also utterly on brand for a league whose owners are, almost exclusively, a bunch of old, privileged white men who don’t consider people of color, or women, as their equals, and cannot fathom them capable of succeeding in such prominent positions.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office have made "legitimate efforts to improve racial diversity." However, every time owners are given the chance to "show they are of the same mind," they "reveal exactly who they are” (USA TODAY, 1/14). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said it is "undeniable that Black coaches don't get as much time as white coaches to build a team.” ESPN's Michael Wilbon: “There’s going to have to be some outrage expressed, because that seems to be the only way that you get results” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/13).

UNFAIR STANDARD TO MEET: In DC, Jerry Brewer writes Tomlin “stands as an example of what it takes for a brotha to keep a job in this wretched business." The keys to longevity "are rather clear, actually." It takes a coach on a HOF track “working for one of the league’s precious few stable organizations.” Tomlin is not the “personification of hope.” Rather, he is “an exception, and a miraculous one,” because he "started so young and won so much and meshed so well with a franchise that has a reputation for vision, strategic planning and finding talent where few are looking." Brewer: “Tomlin is brilliant, lucky and historically resourceful. That’s what it takes to persist. Don’t hail him as an example of the possibilities without lamenting how exacting that standard is" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/14). FS1's Shannon Sharpe said Tomlin is a “one in a 100-year situation: a Black head coach got a job at a cornerstone franchise with an established quarterback already in place." Sharpe: "That’s not normally how it happens" ("Undisputed," FS1, 1/14). 

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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