Does the NFL Have a Diversity Problem?

The push for diversity never ends, especially not for professional sports leagues.

Few would consider America’s professional sports leagues as lacking in diversity. Many of the biggest stars in sports are nonwhite and all-white teams are relics of the past. Sports journalists, on the other hand, apparently believe these leagues are too darn white and radical changes are needed.

The latest target is the NFL.

NFL owners recently considered rewarding teams that hire or interview nonwhite coaches and general managers with better draft placement. This proposal was considered to deal with the alleged paucity of minority coaches and managers. The idea was shelved in favor of expanding the “Rooney Rule.” This rule previously required teams to interview at least one minority candidate for an open head coach position. The NFL now requires teams “to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach vacancies; at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator vacancies; and at least one external candidate for the senior football operations or general manager position.” 

This push seems bizarre when roughly 70 percent of NFL players are black, a fact about which no one complains. Teams scout for the best players, regardless of skin color. But this standard, it seems, is a major problem when it comes to selecting coaches. To the critics, diversity trumps quality, and “too white” is the worst thing to be.

And the critics are not still not happy with the NFL.

“[T]he systemic barriers to entry that have been installed over more than a century of organized football can’t be undone with a flick of the pen,” writes Guardian columnist Bryan Armen Graham. “At the end of the day, the people that put Trump in office are the same trustees on those boards and the same people that own NFL teams.

“[NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell intends to continue working across the table in good faith, seeking solutions to the growing diversity problem,” says ESPN senior writer Jason Reid. “As is evident once again, though, that’s simply not enough.”

“[I]t is a problem when a league is saying it wants the majority of people of color on the field, but not in leadership roles. To move forward the onus needs to be on team owners to educate themselves and be willing to acknowledge their own biases, and then work to correct them,” says Sports Illustrated senior writer Jenny Vrentas

Isn’t it lovely to see the language of campus insanity infect mainstream sports journalism?

All of these writers noticed the sport’s disproportionate share of black players, yet none of them felt that that was a problem. These critics even feel justified to complain there are not enough black quarterbacks. Yet there is no worry about white cornerbacks—a creature not seen on the field since 2002.

Sportswriters are probably smart enough to realize that, for the most part, the best players are the ones on the field. If the NFL tried to accurately reflect American demographics, there would likely be a serious drop in quality. A player shouldn’t lose his spot on the field just because a team needs to satisfy racial quotas.

But, if we’re being honest, it’s ridiculous to think anyone would ever complain about player diversity in the NFL. This would only be a problem to the mainstream media if there were too many white players.

Both the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball regularly are attacked for their lack of diversity. The Wall Street Journal chastised professional hockey for being too white in December. The paper couldn’t believe that the NHL has only 50 nonwhite players. This is an outrage because it doesn’t reflect America’s current demographics and the league must “diversify or die.”

The NHL agrees.

“Now, more than ever, hockey communities and its [sic] leaders must focus on the drastic demographic and cultural change that is coming. It is incumbent upon those currently in the game—for the sake of the game’s future—to ensure that the sport is perceived as welcoming to all,” a recent NHL report on diversity read.

The MLB is the one sports league that most resembles America’s current demographics, yet it’s still considered too white. Roughly 60 percent of professional baseball players are white, which is nearly equivalent to the proportion of whites in America’s population. Around 27 percent of players are Hispanic, but only seven percent are black. The low number of black players is a cause of concern for journalists.

Vox, Yahoo! Sports, the New York Times, and The Undefeated have all run stories in recent years castigating the “whiteness” of baseball. Many of the complaints center on MLB fans being too white. Evidently, the league needs to institute racial quotas at the ticket counter to boost diversity.

The one sport that doesn’t receive any complaints about player diversity is the NBA. The NBA is called the “most diverse” sports league, though the league is nearly 75 percent black. That doesn’t sound, well, very diverse.

But even the NBA receives complaints about diversity. Like the NFL, its coaches and front offices apparently are too white

It’s not clear how a league will make itself “diverse” without evaluating players and coaches on the basis of their skin color rather than their skills. Will the better player lose his spot to a nonwhite candidate if the team needs to fulfill a diversity quota? That happens all the time in corporate America and at our universities. It wouldn’t be that shocking if sports leagues followed suit. Fans might not be happy if their teams aren’t fielding the best players, but it will temporarily satisfy sports journalists.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Sports fans tolerate a lot of politically correct nonsense from their favorite teams. “Pride Nights” and left-wing lectures from players are all features of modern sports culture. Mandatory racial quotas may be the next thing fans need to accept. Our moral superiors say “diversity” is the greatest virtue and makes us strong. Maybe fans will believe that a more “diverse” team or coaching staff will make the team better. But if they pay close attention, they’ll notice “diversity” doesn’t result in better play or an equitable representation of races.

It just means fewer whites.

About Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.

Photo: Fredrocko/Getty Images

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