The Real Reason Behind Racism in the NFL

It’s no secret the NFL has to constantly address issues involving racism within its organization. Recently, former Miami Dolphins head coach and now Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant, Brian Flores, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL. During the 2021 NFL season, Jon Gruden resigned from his head coaching job for the Las Vegas Raiders due to racist and misogynistic slurs he used in an email. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was once accused of making racist comments. The incidents go on and on. It is true that racism does exist within the NFL. It can also be said that there are places within the NFL where racism doesn’t exist. But the reasons usually given why racism exists in the NFL aren’t necessarily the real reasons behind racism within its organization.

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Racism in the NFL and the Real Reason Behind It

Racism itself is a thought process. Webster’s dictionary defines racism as “a thought or belief that one race is superior to another.” Both prejudice and discrimination fall under racism.  While prejudice pre-judges someone based on their race, discrimination is the actions taken against someone because of that prejudice. Those are the things the NFL has had to deal with over the years.

However, the NFL has not been silent in combating racism. In 2020, the NFL committed $250 million over 10 years to different organizations to combat racism. In 2003, the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule. The rule is a policy that requires all NFL teams to interview minorities for high coaching positions. Yet, there are still some that are saying the NFL is not doing enough, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In the annual state of the league address, Goodell said, “We just have to do a better job…We’re not doing a good enough job. We need to find better solutions and better outcomes.” Even the stars of the television show, The View commented about the lack of diversity among head coaches in the NFL, a day after the Super Bowl.

Brian Flores Filed a Racial Discrimination Suit

Much of the recent talk about racial equality in the NFL has come in light of Flores’ racial discrimination suit. In the suit, Flores accuses the New York Giants of only interviewing him to satisfy the Rooney Rule. That was after Flores found out by an accidental text message from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The text indicated Brian Daboll was hired for the head coaching job for the Giants prior to Flores’ interview with the team. Also in the suit, Flores accuses Dolphins owner of trying to bribe him to lose games. Flores believes he was terminated from the Dolphins because he refused the bribe.

But the problem in the NFL isn’t that they haven’t tried to combat racism within the league. They have been trying. The problem is where the focus is, and it is in the wrong place. The NFL has been focusing on the problem instead of the answer. Although it does appear that the NFL is now taking a turn in the right direction, the answer just isn’t in the Rooney Rule. The rule is good, but it is the only policy that NFL teams have to adhere to. And policy only becomes a patch to cover up a problem instead of presenting a real answer to that problem.

Goodell is also right in saying, “there is no finish line” when he spoke about pushing for diversity. Racism is as old as ancient biblical texts. It didn’t stop there, and it won’t stop with the NFL. But finding out why racism exists in the NFL and addressing that ‘why’ should be the answer to the problem.

Racism is Bigger Than Policy

The truth is that no matter how hard the NFL tries to combat racism, they will never stop it. Racism exists all over the world and throughout companies everywhere. It is a mindset that will keep going. The reason for that is that racism isn’t a company problem, it’s a people problem. Neither is it a matter of policy. It is a matter of the heart, someone’s soul. Until the issue of how someone feels about someone else’s race inside their own heart is addressed, racism will keep being a big part of the NFL.

Racism is an acquired trait that is toxic. Nobody has ever been born a racist. That trait is acquired from being around ignorance about race relations. When uneducated people teach uneducated people to hate, despise, and stereotype other people, then the person that receives that uneducated teaching becomes a racist. As far as racism goes within the NFL, there have been people within the league that have been terminated throughout the history of the NFL for incidents involving racism.

NFL owners always want to hire the head coach that gives them the best chance to win. Yet, it is still possible that racism somewhere within the franchise team they own still exists. That’s because the real reason behind racism in the NFL is inside of someone’s own heart, and that’s not always displayed publicly.

The NFL Should Shift Its Focus

The NFL should shift its focus from the problem, of racism, and turn its focus to the answer, race relations. It should implement weekend-long seminars about race relations if they haven’t done so already. The NFL should also require all of its owners to participate in those seminars as well. Minority former head coaches in the NFL should be brought in to have lunches with every NFL owner. In doing so, the owners and former coaches listen and learn from each other. Education about race is the key to the solution. And NFL teams should reconsider the opportunities it offers to minorities in top positions on the team. The teams need to answer the questions of ‘have they been fair, and have they been equal with the opportunities offered’.

The NFL definitely needs change when it comes to racial issues within its organization. It will help improve the situation. No, it won’t eliminate racism. That’s a matter of someone’s individual heart. Everyone needs to put more emphasis on the golden rule that everyone learned in elementary school. That rule was to treat others the same way that everyone wants to be treated. But the most important thing is who a person is on the inside rather than what a person looks like on the outside.

So, until the NFL addresses the real reason behind racism in the NFL, nothing will ever change.

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