The National Football League (NFL) boasts one of the most impressive business models in all of American business. Capable of controlling the fortunes of entire television networks is a powerful weapon and the NFL wields that ability effectively:
“The television rights to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games are the most lucrative and expensive rights of any American sport. It was television that brought Professional Football into prominence in the modern era of technology. Since then, NFL broadcasts have become among the most-watched programs on American television, and the fortunes of entire networks have rested on owning NFL broadcasting rights. This has raised questions about the impartiality of the networks' coverage of games.
Currently, three American terrestrial television networks CBS ($3.73B), NBC ($3.6B) and Fox ($4.27B), as well as cable television's ESPN ($8.8B) are paying a combined total of $20.4 billion to broadcast NFL games through the 2011 season for CBS, Fox, and NBC and through 2013 for ESPN. However, the league imposes several strict television policies to ensure that stadiums are filled and sold out, to maximize TV ratings, and to help leverage content on these networks.”
That $20 billion dollars that networks invest into the proven commodity of football is spent wisely, as an incredible return on investment is made each season:
“TV ratings for NFL games this season are up 15 percent from last season and are at a 20-year high for this point in a season; average television viewership is 17.2 million per game, according to the league. Through Sunday, 11 of the 12 most-watched sporting events since the Super Bowl in February were NFL games. Even with the Washington Redskins' struggles, all seven of their games have been the highest-rated shows in the D.C. area in the weeks in which they aired.
Ratings for NFL games this season are up 20 percent on NBC, 19 percent on Fox, 4 percent on CBS and 18 percent on ESPN, according to the league. Last Sunday's Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game on Fox drew 29.8 million viewers and was the highest-rated telecast on any network since the Academy Awards in February.”
NFL franchise owners (32 in all) have been enriched beyond their wildest dreams thanks to these television deals, for without them smaller market teams (think Kansas City and Green Bay) would have a difficult competing. However, nearly all of the franchises have seen their market value decrease with the onset of the financial collapse (see Forbes list here of value of NFL teams) and many are seeing rising costs of operating:
“Last season, the league fell short of its predicted revenue figure by $50 to $60 million. A quarter of the league’s franchises lost value for the first time in ten years in this past year. The lowly Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions fell 7% and 6% in value, respectively. Even the perennial Super Bowl contenders, the Indianapolis Colts, fell 5%. Only an economic recession could slow the NFL profit machine.”
Amid all the good news for the NFL rests the unpleasant news of ticket sales declining, employee deaths and player arrests (list of players arrested since 2000 can be found here), lack of Black owners and worse, the failed implementation of the Rooney Rule.
You might be asking yourself what in the world is the Rooney Rule? In a profession where 66 percent of the individuals performing between the hashes on Sunday are Black people, Black people have noticed a lack of head coaches manning the sideline:
“In 1989, Raiders owner Al Davis hired Art Shell as the first black head coach of the NFL's modern era and first since Fritz Pollard in the 1920s.
Progress was slow.
In 2002, attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri published a report titled "Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performances, Inferior Opportunities." At the time, the report cited an alarming statistic: Since the NFL began in 1920, more than 400 head coaches had been hired, but only six of them African-Americans.
The same year, influential Steelers owner Dan Rooney proposed a rule, known colloquially as the Rooney Rule, requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching vacancy.
Currently, six of the NFL's 32 teams have black coaches, though nearly 70 percent of players are African-American.”
So what is this Rooney Rule?:
“The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. The rule is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the league's diversity committee, and indirectly the Rooney family in general, due to the Steelers' long history of giving African Americans opportunities to serve in team leadership roles. It is often cited as an example of affirmative action.
The Rule was established to ensure that minority coaches were considered for high-level coaching positions. Until 1979, Fritz Pollard was the only minority head coach in NFL history (which was during the league's early years in the 1920's) and by the time the Rule was implemented, only Tom Flores, Art Shell, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy, and Herman Edwards had ever held head coaching jobs…
In 2003, the NFL fined the Detroit Lions $200,000 for failure to interview minority candidates for the team's vacant head coaching job. After Marty Mornhinweg was fired, the Lions immediately hired former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci to replace him without interviewing any other candidates. The Lions claimed they attempted to interview other candidates but that the minority candidates withdrew from interviews, believing Mariucci's hiring was inevitable.”
“The Redskins hired Mike Shanahan, a former two-time Super Bowl-winning coach for the Denver Broncos, after satisfying the rule by interviewing one of their assistant coaches, Jerry Gray, before firing Jim Zorn as head coach.
The Seahawks, who announced Monday they had agreed to a contract with Pete Carroll, satisfied the rule by interviewing Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday, after some media outlets reported Friday that a tentative deal with Carroll already was in place.
Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said in a televised interview Monday that he feels Frazier's interview with the Seahawks "was done in fairness and the spirit of the law" but he thinks that Gray's interview with the Redskins set a "terrible precedent" because it was conducted before Zorn was fired.
"I just think that's wrong," Dungy said on ESPN's "Outside The Lines."
Dungy also said on the program that "you can get around rules. . . . I don't know there's anything you can do to mandate fairness."
Listening to Tony Dungy speak is hard for many Black people, for people look at him as a potential candidate for office soon, and yet he speaks with such a malleable voice when discussing the perfunctory Rooney Rule.
We have discussed the lack of Black head coaches in college football before, and the NFL is not an exempted from this discussion.
Until all jobs in the NFL are staffed by Black people, then and only then will Black people refrain from discussing “fairness” and “mandating”. Dungy – like all Black people – believes all 32 head coaching positions should be taken by Black coaches, disregarding “fairness” completely for white people.
George Willis, a Black writer for the New York Post, believes the Rooney Rule should be scrapped:
“There have been many positives that have come about because of the Rooney Rule.
But now it has outlived its purpose and is being manipulated to the point where it has become a joke.
It's bad enough when minority coaches go through sham interviews just so clubs can comply with the rule and avoid being fined.
But now those entrusted with overseeing the rule is implemented seem compliant with the back-room maneuvering to dance around the rule."
Black people know better though, as they believe the Rooney Rule doesn’t go far enough into “mandating fairness”. The Rooney Rule should be applied to all levels of society whether it be for job, standardized test scores, acceptance to law and medical school, and other position where Black applicants are subjected to consideration with white people.
However, Black people also see the Rooney Rule as a back-handed compliment, an officially-licensed endorsement by the NFL – a brand beloved the world over – that Black candidates for a head coaching position at one of the 32 franchises don’t stand on the same surface as white applicants and therefore need a helping hand from the Plantation owner.
The Rooney Rule – to Black people – is basically the NFL saying, “We’ll consider this Black candidate, but not really consider him.”
Remember, sports help shape the only positive images of Black people in America and without those perceptions it is incredibly difficult to gauge where Black people might be in society.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes the Rooney Rule, for Black people know that the only way to “mandate fairness” is to abolish any rule that places equal weight upon white applicants with Black applicants for every vocational position in America. Instead, implement the “Obama Rule”: Black people are the only candidate considered.
Only when Black people control every segment of society will the dream of “mandated fairness” be equitably distributed.The Rooney Rule is a slap in the face to prospective Black NFL head coaches and the "Obama Rule" must be implemented immediately.
It's worked for South Africa, right?
To watch an interview with Tony Dungy about the Rooney Rule, click here.