A conservative legal group has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the NFL over its race-based “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview blacks for specific leadership roles among the league’s teams.
The group, America First Legal (AFL), alleges that the league’s race-based rule violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans businesses from hiring based on race and other exclusionary factors, Fox News reported.
In its press release announcing the filing, AFL called the rule an “insult” and noted that the Rooney Rule is a “clear violation” of the law, which “prohibits hiring practices that limit, segregate, or classify applicants for employment because of race, color, and/or sex.”
AFL adds that despite the rule being imposed for twenty years, it was adopted in 2003. The only thing that has happened is that teams have engaged in “sham interviews with minority candidates solely to check the Rooney Rule box.”
“Given the limited timeframe to hire executives and coaches after the season, this results in fewer opportunities for similarly situated, well-qualified candidates who are not minorities,” AFL added.
The Rooney Rule was initially focused on black candidates for coaching positions, but in 2022, the NFL expanded the rule to force all 32 teams to hire females and ethnic minorities to serve as assistant coaches, as well.
“When millions of Americans tune in to the Super Bowl, they will be watching meritocracy in action: the best players, on the best teams, with the best coaches. Yet, every year during this time, NFL teams must follow the ‘Rooney Rule’ and interview prospective coaches and executives, not because of their skill and hard work, but rather because of the color of their skin,” AFL said in a press release.
“This process is not only insulting and condescending to prospective coaches who are merely interviewed to check a box,” AFL added, “but it is also the exact kind of racial balancing that the Supreme Court of the United States has unequivocally denounced as illegal and anathema to equal protection under the law.”
“If the National Football League truly wants to end discrimination in the employment process, then the NFL should stop discriminating in the employment process, follow the meritocratic system it displays on the field, and eliminate the Rooney Rule,” AFL concluded.
The NFL will have nine black head coaches next season, the most it has ever had at the top of a season.
The league has not made a public comment on the AFL’s filing.