NFL minorities organize to ensure fair hiring practicesPosted: Wednesday March 12, 2003 4:54 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2003 10:41 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- For the first time, NFL minority coaches and executives will band together to fight for equal opportunities in a sport still struggling to promote blacks on the field and in the front office.
They have formed a group to try to ensure that minorities receive fair consideration for all NFL job openings.
"This is a turning point for equal opportunity in the league," said Cyrus Mehri, whose study of the league's minority hiring practices, released last September, spurred a move to add more blacks to the upper levels of NFL teams.
"For the first time, African-American front-office and coaching personnel are standing shoulder to shoulder to level the playing field."
While there has long been a loose coalition of black non-players in the NFL, this is the first formal organization. The group was organized at a meeting of 125 people at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month.
It will meet formally for the first time Friday in Washington, D.C., at a function to honor Bobby Mitchell, the former assistant general manager of the Redskins and the NFL's first black executive. In 1963, Mitchell became Washington's first black player, fully integrating the NFL's 12 teams.
The group will be led by Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow and former Cleveland Brown guard John Wooten, and will be named the Fritz Pollard Alliance after the first black coach in the NFL.
Pollard coached the Hammond, Ind., Pros from 1923-25, the last minority head coach in the league until Art Shell was appointed coach of the then-Los Angeles Raiders in 1989.
The group will consist of one representative elected by non-playing minorities on each of the 32 teams. Mehri and Johnnie Cochran Jr., who have been at the forefront of the push for minority hiring, will be the lawyers for the group.
The group will be the connection between blacks and the league committee on minority affairs, headed by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney.
It will recommend candidates for vacancies and also run mentoring programs by older black coaches and executives.
There also are four minority football executives: general manager Ozzie Newsome of Baltimore; Rod Graves, vice president of football operations for Arizona; James Harris, vice president for player personnel in Jacksonville; and Ray Anderson, vice president and chief contract negotiator for Atlanta.
Lewis, Graves and Harris got their jobs after the season ended. That came after the NFL, at the recommendation of Rooney's committee, required that all teams interview at least one minority candidate for each coaching vacancy.
Rooney criticized the Detroit Lions after they hired former San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci without interviewing a black candidate. The Lions said they had invited five minorities for interviews but were turned down because of the perception they already had decided to hire Mariucci.
Mehri and Cochran also criticized Dallas' hiring of Bill
Parcells as head coach. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, however,
that Dallas had met the guideline because owner Jerry Jones had a
telephone interview with former Minnesota head coach Dennis Green.