NFL’s Rooney Rule gets adjustments

All 32 clubs must employ a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach. In recent years, head coaches have predominantly had offensive backgrounds.

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Texans head coach Lovie Smith, left, speaks to media at the NFL owner’s meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.

Texans head coach Lovie Smith, left, speaks to media at the NFL owner’s meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

PALM BEACH, Fla. — To ensure more opportunities for diverse candidates, the NFL has added requirements on the hiring of offensive assistant coaches, and women in general.

The moves announced Monday at the owners meeting include adjustments to the Rooney Rule adopted in 2003 and amended frequently in attempts to enhance opportunities for people of color and women for nearly all league and team jobs.

Beginning this season, all 32 clubs must employ a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach. The person will receive a one-year contract and work closely with the head coach and offensive staff to gain experience.

In recent years, head coaches have predominantly had offensive backgrounds. The pipeline for minorities on that side of the ball is lacking, as Steelers owner Art Rooney II reiterated Monday.

“We recognize we have seen progress on some fronts,” said Rooney, chairman of the league’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, “but we still have a way to go on other fronts.”

Teams will receive league funding toward the coach’s salary for up to two years.

Overall, including women in all Rooney Rule requirements is designed to address under-representation of women in key football positions. The league believes this will “encourage the further identification and development of women candidates and the ability to provide them additional opportunity to interview for open positions.”

Dasha Smith, the NFL’s chief administrative officer and one of the league’s highest-ranking females, noted that for the first time, a woman was interviewed for a general manager’s position this year.

Smith also said that virtual interviews will no longer be acceptable for head coach and general manager positions, and there will be specific requirements for candidates to become offensive assistants. Those would include at least three years of experience on the college or pro level.

There currently are five minority head coaches in the NFL. There are seven Black general managers.

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