The NFL should serve as a microcosm on how DEI efforts can improve every aspect of American life. This season, every Black head coach in the NFL qualified for the playoffs.
In a 32-team league, three Black coaches led their teams during the NFL season (Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh Steelers, Todd Bowles of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans). Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins identifies as bi-racial.
Tomlin, Ryans, and Bowles all faced uphill battles, each leading relatively subpar teams to overachievement. Tomlin is the only coach in NFL history to compile 17 straight winning seasons. Ryans is a rookie head coach with a rookie quarterback (C.J. Stroud) who led a team that only won three games the previous year. And Bowles is leading a Bucs team that’s still searching for its identity following the retirement of Tom Brady.
But the success of each coach would not have been realized without Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts.
DEI initiatives have come under attack mostly by right-wing pundits, media outlets, and social media users.
Following the controversial resignation of Dr. Claudine Gay at Harvard, some have made the false claim that Gay was unqualified for the position and only hired due to DEI. Billionaire investor Bill Ackman used racial rhetoric by claiming Gay was only hired because of a DEI initiative, disregarding her noted achievements in academia.
Mark Cuban and Elon Musk used social media to argue over DEI, with Cuban defending and Musk attacking.
Musk claimed, “DEI discriminates on the basis of race, gender and many other factors, is not merely immoral, it is also illegal.”
Cuban responded by saying, “there are people of various races, ethnicities, orientation, etc that are regularly excluded from hiring consideration. By extending our hiring search to include them, we can find people that are more qualified.”
Indeed, it can be argued that without DEI, Tomlin, Ryans, and Bowles would not have been given an opportunity. They did not take the place of any head coach only because they were Black. But, as Cuban noted, they were more qualified than other prospects and able to be found because the job search went beyond typical candidates.
The attack on DEI isn’t about the legality of using race to provide opportunities, it’s an attack on any advancement of Black people.
NFL owners still have a long way to go when it comes to increasing the number of Black head coaches, but Tomlin, Ryans, and Bowles are evidence of how an increase in diversity can lead to overarching success.
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