Roger Goodell says lack of diversity among head coaches has been ‘unacceptable’ in memo sent to NFL teams

In the aftermath of Brian Flores filing a lawsuit against the league alleging racism in its hiring practices, the NFL came out with a statement saying that his claims were “without merit.” However, in a memo recently released to teams, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the clear lack of diversity among head coaching hirings in the league.

“We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable,” the memo, obtained by CBS Sports senior NFL insider Jonathan Jones, reads. “We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines, and initiatives relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including as they relate to gender.”

So far this hiring cycle, white men have filled all six head coaching vacancies while three more positions remain open. Goodell added that the league is retaining outside experts to assist in this review and is expected to seek out input from current and former players to help address this issue as well. 

“We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week,” wrote Goodell. “While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In particular, we recognize the need to understand the lived experiences of diverse members of the NFL family to ensure that everyone has access to opportunity and is treated with respect and dignity.” 

Goodell also touched on the allegations made by Flores regarding Dolphins owner Stephen Ross trying to pay Flores $100,000 per loss while he was the head coach in Miami during the 2019 season. 

“We also take seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games,” Goodell noted in the memo. “These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently. We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds.”

Ross denied Flores’s allegations in a statement following this news coming to light but added that he will “cooperate fully” with the investigation.

Shortly after the release of this memo, Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, the attorneys for Flores, released the following response

“Unfortunately, immediately after Coach Flores filed the class action lawsuit, the NFL and various teams reflexively, and without any investigation, denied the detailed allegations set forth in the 60 page complaint. As a result, when we spoke to the national media the following day we made clear that the NFL should view this class action lawsuit as an opportunity to engage in real change and confront the obvious reality. 

“The statement made today by the Commissioner is, on the surface, a positive first step, but we suspect that this is more of a public relations ploy than real commitment to change. For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, all while letting systemic racial bias fester in its front offices. The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed. 

“We would be pleased to talk to the Commissioner about real change, but unfortunately he has not reached out to us to engage in such a discussion. In fact, nobody from the NFL has reached out to us. Absent such a discussion followed by unbiased and concrete change, we believe that a court or governmental agency must order a federal monitor to oversee the NFL as the NFL cannot continue to police itself.”

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