The Fritz Pollard Alliance is asking for the NFL to spearhead an investigation into the Oakland Raiders’ hiring of new head coach Jon Gruden for possible violations of the league’s “Rooney Rule.”
“We promote diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of National Football League teams,” the front page of the alliance’s website reads.
Alliance counsel Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru released a statement, citing worries that the Gruden hire was not done with proper protocols.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders’ next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color,” the statement reads.
“If so, the club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manger positions.”
The “Rooney Rule” was named after the late Dan Rooney, the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers owner.
Controversy first arose during the introductory press conference for Gruden. Raiders owner Mark Davis claimed that he and Gruden had reached a verbal understanding over the head coach position on Christmas Eve.
Former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was fired Jan. 6.
The implication is that Gruden’s job was all but locked in before the end of the season, and that no minority candidates were seriously considered.
“As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated — and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment,” the statement concluded.
Interestingly, Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten seems to contradict the demands of Mehri and Duru.
Wooten told ESPN prior to the official hiring that he believed the Raiders would sufficiently meet expectations with the Gruden hire in regards to the Rooney Rule.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has said he had already interviewed two minority candidates. Raiders tight end coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin were both reportedly interviewed for the head coach vacancy.
Of note, Davis’ father, the late Al Davis, was a known advocate for diversity.
During Al Davis’ time as the Raiders owner, he hired Tom Flores, the first Latino head coach in NFL history. He hired Art Shell, the first African-American head coach in the modern NFL. And he also hired Amy Trask as a top executive in a primarily male-dominated position.
McKenzie, who is African American, was also brought in while Al Davis was still running the team.
Gruden is returning to the sidelines as a head coach after a 10-year hiatus. He had been working as an announcer for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts.
The Raiders fired Del Rio after a disappointing season in which the team stumbled to a 6-10 record just one year after making the playoffs.
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