By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter

The Cleveland Browns will be the last NFL team to hire a head coach in 2020 and if they hire a minority it will not be enough.

Maybe, just maybe, it might be time to join former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick and kneel before and after games, but we fans must do more and boycott the league, its games, and their sponsored products until this complex issue is corrected.

As we start a new decade, the National Football League is currently having a problem hiring minorities in upper management positions.

In the beginning the League had this same problem, Fritz Pollard of the Akron-Hammond Pros became the first African American head coach in 1921.

There have only been 22 other Black head coaches since.  Oakland’s Art Shell started the new era of African American head coaches in 1989. Remember there was a BLACKOUT period.

A “gentlemen’s agreement” to keep African Americans out of the game from 1932 through 1946 led by Chicago Bear owner George Halas and George Preston Marshall, the owner of the Boston Braves/Washington Football Club.

Marshall pressured the other owners who had Black players to release them all in 1933. The unofficial-official ban of Black players began a year later.

Longtime family owners including the Rooneys (Pittsburgh Steelers) and the Maras (New York Giants) have all tried to deny it ever existed. However,  not another African American football player crossed the goal-line until 1946.

Because of Marshall’s stance on Black players and his bigoted view of the world, the Washington Football Club became the team of the south. They even included the words “Fight for Old Dixie” within the team’s fight song.

It remained that way until 1967 when the lyrics were changed to “Fight for Old D.C.” on the heels of the league’s expansion with the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.


In 2003, the NFL tried to remedy the problem of hiring minority head coaches with the Rooney Rule that required teams to at least interview ethnic/minority candidates for head coaching and general manager’s jobs.

It is not going well.

At this current date San Diego’s Anthony Lynn, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Miami’s Brian Flores are the only African American head coaches in the 32-team league.


This year, Ron Rivera made a lateral move to the Washington Football Club from the Carolina Panthers, the only minority hires in 2020. Rivera is also the only Latino head coach.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports gave the NFL the lowest grade in five years after the drastic reductions hired the past three years.

The director, Richard Lapchick continues to point out the lack of Black executives in positions of true power continues to fall.

With only one General Manager (Miami’s Chris Grier) and two minority owners (The Williams Sisters also in Miami and Jacksonville’s Shahid Khan), the grade for 2020 should be a D-.

The problem continues with teams skirting the rules. Three years ago the Oakland Raiders blatantly violated the rule in the re-hiring of Jon Gruden without interviewing anybody else.

This year, teams just bypassed the rule without consequences. The Raider organization had their minds made up before the job was open and filled it without a voice of outrage.

Teams are now required to interview a minority candidate from outside their organizations or candidates from a league-approved list. Additionally, clubs must maintain complete records of their hiring processes and forward them to the commissioner’s office upon request. 

The pushback on this issue has been laws cannot force a team or owner to hire individuals they do not want. It is their company, a private enterprise and they run it as they see fit, so in contrast fans can walk away from the product as they did in 2015-2017.


Many are stating the NFL is now trying to placate the masses and protest by promoting African American quarterbacks to starting positions. There are four field generals in this year’s Divisional playoffs.

Is this a positive change? Yes, but it still does not address minority employment in the NFL administration offices.

It is also very interesting since the Colin Kaepernick kneeling issue five years ago the Black head coaching numbers have dropped from eight to four, coincidence?

Maybe. Are they sending a message to Black players and Black coaching assistants, shut-up and play? Maybe.

There is a problem that the NFL cannot ignore, because in the last three years 19 head coaching jobs have opened, and all 19 have been filled. Perry Fewell was interim coach of the Carolina Panthers and Arizona’s Steve Wilks got their chance and were dropped at season’s end.

Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos never got a chance to improve the struggling team, never getting a chance to institute his program for the Broncos.

His 11-21 record does not tell the true story as Denver played quarterback circus his two years at the Mile High City.

The aforementioned Lynn was bounced to Southern California as it was obvious the Buffalo ownership did not want a Black man to lead their team on the field. The Bills also shipped out two of the three African American quarterbacks on their roster that same year.


Some NFL teams decided to move back into the college ranks for their head coaches with the recent collegian success in the NFL. Sean McVay from the Los Angeles Rams was the poster boy with his two NFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance.

The NFL has always been known as a copy cat league so many followed the Los Angeles Rams hiring young offensive college coaches. The League wanted offensive changes quickly and most of these coaches are former quarterbacks or quarterback coaches and white. Leaving older, experience, and qualified Black assistants coaches to wait again.

This year, the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, The Washington Football Club, all hired new bosses on the field.

The frustration continues to grow as the Giants hired Matt Rhule with a 47-42 record in college from Temple and Baylor and one year as offensive line coach in New York oh, I mean New Jersey with the Giants.


While Kansas City Chief offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has to wait, the most  qualified African American currently in the League. The others are Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard, and Philadelphia Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley.

All of these fine men can handle both quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. but it will not happen because the management in Cleveland want their head coach to look like them.

Mr. Goodell you can do more than hire Jay-Z.

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod


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