Analysis: NFL gets ‘D+’ grade for head coach hires, ‘F’ for general managers in troubling new racial report card

Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, stated one of the more honest truths about professional sports leagues' attempt to diversify the front office and coaching ranks. Vincent said they all still stink at it.

"The facts are the facts," said Vincent, who is Black, on a conference call with reporters this week. "None of the sports leagues are doing this well. When you look at the mobility of Black men and Black women in professional sports, so it's poor. So what we (have) to do is control what we can control, and look at and examine what we're doing. … We have done a thorough examination of what we're doing wrong, what doesn't work. But there's no best practices in sports. Let's be straight. Let's be honest. We can go to every sport from basketball, hockey, baseball, here. Diversity, we're not seeing what we all hope for. We're not seeing true inclusion."

NFL vice president Troy Vincent speaks to the media during an owners meetings in 2019. (Photo: The Associated Press)

Vincent's words were some of the most blunt from any NFL executive in months, if not years, and they are reinforced by a new study that gives the NFL an overall passing grade, but poor marks for some of its hiring practices in crucial areas.

For decades the Racial and Gender Report Card has served as one of the definitive looks at the hiring practices of the top professional leagues in the United States. It examines the racial and gender makeup, and then assigns letter grades on efforts to diversify everything from owners, to coaches, to the executives and other key positions.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, at the University of Central Florida, compiles the data, and it's authored by Dr. Richard Lapchick.

The NFL report takes on particular importance this year as it's the first following the killing of George Floyd, which sparked a national racial reckoning and conversation, and led to the league declaring it would diversify its ranks.

So far, the report shows, and as Vincent states, that isn't happening.

The report gives the NFL a B+ for racial hiring, C for gender hiring and a B- overall.

The good news for the NFL in the report is that it gives the league an A+ for the race of players, which it says is 69.4 percent people of color. It also said the NFL deserved an A+ for the hiring of assistant coaches, standing at 35.6 percent.

The problem for the NFL is some of the issues the league has been fighting for decades remain, mainly the struggle to hire head coaches and team front office personnel of color.

The NFL received a D+ for the hiring of head coaches (12.5 percent people of color) and an F for team front offices, meaning general managers (6.5 percent).

The grade for hiring of CEOs and team presidents in terms of race was a D, and gender, an F.

The league office, not run by the teams, fared far better with A+ for racial hiring (30.5 percent people of color) and B for gender hiring (38.2 percent).

The league office has rarely been the problem in recent years. The huge issue remains that teams are stuck in a racial Twilight Zone where the league office itself is becoming a more inclusive place, and the coaching positions and front offices on individual teams themselves remain mostly white, and aren't showing signs of changing.

The other problem is women aren't being hired at key team front office positions as well. The study gave teams a failing grade when it came to the hiring of women for key front office positions.

"We're still talking about women in this space?" Vincent said. "Are you kidding me? We're a month away from 2021 and we're still talking about women in senior level positions? In coaching positions? Come on. Gimme a break. These young men and women today in high school and college, they're used to seeing women in leadership positions. And they pause because they got to this level? The closer you get to the playing field, the least opportunities there are for women? Come on. We've got to look at ourselves and be frank and call truth. Facts and data does not support where we are, across the entire sports industry. So we've got a lot of work to do."

The NFL continues attempts to diversity its league. Last month owners voted to award teams third-round draft picks for any franchise that develops a head coach or general of color, and that candidate is hired by another team.

What's become obvious, however, and something Vincent sees, something backed up by the report card, is an inarguable truth.

What the NFL is doing when it comes to diversifying its teams, mostly, isn't working.

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