The NFL Faces Heat Over Hiring Practices

The National Football League (NFL) is in the hot seat again. This time, players and coaches are accusing the league of racial discrimination in hiring practices for coaches; more specifically, they claim that the NFL is biased against Black personnel for coveted coaching positions. In a sports league where most players are Black, most head coaches are white—and this is the problem.

Despite the fact that 70 percent of NFL players are Black, only one of the 32 head coaches is Black, as of the date of this posting. Recently, there were two other Black head coaches, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins and David Culley of the Houston Texans, but both were fired at the end of the season. Their exits left just one Black head coach (Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and one Latino head coach (Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders) in the entire NFL. The rest of the head coaches are white.

On February 2, Flores sued the NFL and three of its teams for discriminatory hiring practices. The lawsuit outlines a series of specific experiences Flores had during his time as a coach in the league.

The NFL and the teams in question have denied these accusations, stating that the absence of Black head coaches is due to a lack of qualified candidates—a claim not supported by the available research. Some coaches and players believe the NFL is purposely overlooking qualified Black candidates to maintain its all-white leadership.

This isn’t the first time that the NFL has been accused of racism; the league has a long history of discriminating against Black athletes and coaches. In 1921, Fritz Pollard became the first coach of color in the NFL, but it took almost 70 years before Art Shell would become the second coach to break down the same barrier. In 2021, coach Jon Gruden was fired following a release of messages containing racist and homophobic remarks. And the topic of race has been a hot-button issue since 2016, when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem to protest racism in America. He has not been able to find a team to work with ever since. The following year, the 32 NFL team owners created a policy that would lead to a player being fined for kneeling during the anthem.1 Some people believe these instances demonstrate that race is an issue that the NFL continues to ignore.

In 2003, the NFL adopted the so-called Rooney Rule to address the league’s lack of diversity in coaching. As of May 2020, the Rooney Rule has been expanded to require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for their head coaching job and at least one external minority candidate for any coordinator job.2 When the rule was first adopted, there were some positive effects in the short term: the NFL did see an increase in Black and Latino coaches. However, following those initial gains, the number of head coaches of color decreased over time. As of this writing, there are fewer Black head coaches in the NFL than there were in 2003 (when there were three).3

These figures show snapshot comparisons of newly hired NFL head coaches broken down by race in 2002-2003 vs. 2019-2020

NFL Head Coaches

Many people in the industry have refused to speak openly with reporters about the alleged discriminatory hiring practices for fear of backlash. However, one person did tell that Flores’s case is “probably going to air out a lot of dirty laundry. What happened to [Flores] has been going on for decades, but no one has ever wanted to push the issue. Most have been happy to have the opportunity to work in the league and haven’t wanted to walk away from that opportunity. I admire his resolve.”4

Flores said in an interview that he felt the need to bring this issue to court (despite the negative impact it might have on his career) because “we need change. I know many capable Black coaches who would go out and do a great job on their interviews when given the opportunity. I hate to see that go to waste. We need to change the hearts and minds of the people making the decisions … the white NFL team owners.”5

In his lawsuit documents, Flores says that “the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity.”6 He also describes several interviews with the NFL in detail, calling them “sham interviews” meant to fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement and check a box. In his lawsuit, Flores describes the Rooney Rule as well-intentioned but ineffective.

“However, well-intentioned or not, what is clear is that the Rooney Rule is not working. It is not working because the numbers of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators, and Quarterback Coaches are not even close to being reflective of the number of Black athletes on the field. The Rooney Rule is also not working because management is not doing the interviews in good faith. Therefore, it creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess.”7

So what do Flores and others around the league hope to see the NFL do to bring about change? Here are just a few suggestions they have offered.8

  1. Increase Black team ownership
  2. Consistently enforce hiring policies
  3. Hire a trustworthy external oversight firm
  4. Commit to greater transparency
  5. Include players in the hiring process
  6. Embrace different styles of coaching excellence
  7. Create head-coaching pathway programs
  8. Commission a systemic study of the league
  9. Unionize

READ the full interview for more details on these solutions.

In the end, the NFL must show that it is not biased against Black athletes and coaches or else continue to face the consequences. The longer these issues remain unaddressed, the worse the results could be for the league. What would the NFL do if players and coaches chose to boycott games or file additional lawsuits? Either way, the NFL’s reputation is on the line … again.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think business owners and employers should have the right to refuse to hire someone on the basis of any grounds they choose? Why or why not?
  2. From what you have read, do you believe the NFL and its teams are doing enough to create diversity among the coaching staff in the league? Why or why not?
  3. If you were the owner of an NFL team, how would you go about hiring to make sure the most qualified candidates were being hired and that the opportunities were not impacted by race?

Additional Resources

  • READ the full lawsuit documents
  • WATCH the full interview with Flores

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!



Featured Image Credit: Doug Murray/AP
[1] Washington Post:
[2]  CBS Sports:
[3]  Texas A&M University:
[4] National Football League:
[5] ESPN:
[6] Wigdor Law:
[7] Ibid.
[8] Rolling Stone:


Should Members of Congress Be Banned from Trading Stocks?

Last month, Senators Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., introduced the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, a reform bill that would require members of Congress to divest their stock market investments or face fines totaling the entire amount of their congressional salary.1 So, should members of Congress be allowed to trade stocks?

According to an August 2021 Gallup poll, approximately 56 percent of U.S. adults own stock.2 Stocks, also called equities, are bought in units called “shares” and represent partial ownership of a company.3 Investors who own shares hope for a return on their investment; if the company they invest in succeeds, their stock price rises and increases in worth. Investors may receive dividend payments, which are earnings that the company issues to its stockholders.4 At least 220 members of Congress—more than 40 percent of senators and representatives—own stock. This has raised concerns about corruption and conflicts of interest, prompting the question: should members of Congress be allowed to trade stocks?

The Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act would “require all members of Congress, their spouses, and dependent children to place their stock portfolios into a blind trust.”5 A blind trust is a method of divesting assets in which stockholders pass their investments on to an independent third party which then makes financial decisions on their behalf, insulating the stockholders from day-to-day decision-making and trading.

A decade ago, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which aimed to prevent insider trading in Congress. Due to the nature of their job, members of Congress often have access to sensitive information from closed-door meetings and briefings about markets, upcoming regulations, and a multitude of government issues. They’re also the ones in charge of creating federal policy. The STOCK Act prohibits members of Congress from buying or selling stock on the basis of any privileged information they receive. It also requires Congress members trading stocks to be publicly disclosed on searchable, online databases within 45 days.6

Although the STOCK Act was an example of Congress taking the initiative to reform itself, the results have not been as effective as hoped. The average fine for failing to report trades on time is a mere $200, and according to an investigative series by Business Insider, 55 members of Congress—Democrats and Republicans alike—were late in disclosing their stock trades.7 Some were late by only a few days; others were late by months.8

READ MORE: “These Are the 50 Top Stocks that Members of Congress Own”

In January 2020, before the general public was aware of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., sold millions of dollars of stock in companies that were poised to be hit hard by the pandemic, right before they dropped in value.9 She then purchased stock “in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments.”10 Around the same time, financial decisions by Senators David Perdue, R-Ga., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also received scrutiny for what looked like insider trading. They have all denied any wrongdoing, and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice have since concluded without any recommended charges.11

While there has been talk on Capitol Hill about doing more to rein in the buying and selling of stocks, and subsequent insider trading, by senators and representatives, leadership in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Senate initially pushed back against the idea. “We are a free-market economy,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who owns and trades stock along with members of her immediate family, adding that members of Congress “should be able to participate in this.”12 Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signaled his support for discussing details of the proposal, warming up to it after facing bipartisan pressure from his fellow lawmakers.13

But it’s not just bipartisan support among those in Congress. According to the conservative-leaning Convention of States Action, 76 percent of Americans agree that members of Congress have an “unfair advantage” in the stock market and should not be allowed to trade stocks while in office.14 Those who support the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act believe that elected officials need to rebuild trust with the American people, increase transparency, and show that they will put the best interests of their constituents before any personal profit.

Those who oppose the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act believe that members of Congress should be free to participate in the stock market like anyone else, regardless of their position or title. They note that the STOCK Act is already on the books and should be better enforced to prevent even the appearance of corruption.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe elected officials should be held to higher standards and face more scrutiny than those who don’t hold public office? If so, in what ways?
  2. Should members of Congress be expected to give up some of their freedoms in order to serve in their positions?
  3. Do you have trust in your elected officials to put the interests of the people before their own? Why or why not?
  4. Are there any other ethics reforms that you think could build trust and increase transparency in Congress?

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!



Featured Image Credit: POLITICO illustration/Getty and iStock
[1] Website of Senator Jon Ossoff:
[2] Gallup:
[3] U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
[4] Ibid.
[5] Website of Senator Jon Ossoff:
[6] New York Times:
[7] Business Insider:
[8] Ibid.
[9]  Vox:
[10] Atlanta Journal-Constitution:–regional-govt–politics/loeffler-reports-more-stock-sales-amid-insider-trading-allegations/YFPDT3pChO873nuzNKa44K/
[11] Washington Post:
[12] New York Times:
[13] Business Insider:
[14] The Hill:


Censure Divides the Republican Party

On February 4, the Republican National Committee (RNC) officially censured two members of the party, Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., for their role in the ongoing House of Representatives investigation into the Capitol riot that occurred on January 6, 2021.

The RNC resolution claims that Cheney and Kinzinger “support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump” and denounces “those who deliberately jeopardize [Republican] victory in November.” Perhaps the most controversial text of the RNC resolution states, “Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”1 Some interpreted this statement as downplaying the riot and showing support for those responsible.2 Later that day, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted that the language was referring to “ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol,” although the RNC resolution does not make that distinction and does not specify which actions the RNC members view as legitimate.3

READ MORE: Insurrection at the Capitol on the Current Issues Blog

On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald Trump rioted in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.4 The Department of Justice estimates that between 2,000 and 2,500 people entered the Capitol. More than 725 people have been arrested, with charges ranging from parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building to assault with a deadly weapon. As a result of the violence, 138 law enforcement officers were injured and two people died.5 In addition to the investigations by law enforcement agencies, the House launched its own investigation with a select committee that currently includes seven Democrats and Cheney and Kinzinger as the sole Republicans, all of whom were chosen by Democrats and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.6

READ MORE: Who Is Accountable for the Riot? on the Current Issues Blog

On the day of the censure vote, McDaniel made it clear that the RNC members are strongly prioritizing party unity, something Cheney and Kinzinger are purportedly threatening with their presence on the House committee and continued criticism of President Trump. “When Republicans come together, we win,” McDaniel said at the RNC general session.7 After facing criticism directed at the language in the resolution, McDaniel defended the RNC’s decision. “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line,” she said.8 Richard Porter, an RNC member from Illinois, agreed with the political censure of Cheney and Kinzinger, saying, “The nominal Republicans on the committee provide a pastiche of bipartisanship, but no genuine protection or due process for the ordinary people who did not riot being targeted and terrorized by the committee. The investigation is a de facto Democrat-only investigation increasingly unmoored from congressional norms.”9

READ MORE: Free Speech and Censorship Fallout from the Capitol Riot on the Current Issues Blog

Shortly before the political censure vote, Representative Cheney stated that her party had become “willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election.”10 Several members of the Republican Party, including Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, criticized the censure. “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” tweeted Romney. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”11

The fight over President Trump continues to divide Republicans, as some support him and others believe opposing him will keep Republican congressional majorities out of reach in the upcoming midterms. Other Republicans believe they should be allowed to criticize the former president or disagree with the RNC. “It can be uncomfortable when you say I’m not going to align myself neatly with what the party is saying just because the party is saying [it],” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.12

Discussion Questions

  1. Is a desire for party unity an acceptable reason for censuring members? Why or why not?
  2. Last year, the RNC soundly denounced the January 6 rioters right after the events. Why might party leadership have chosen to use language in the February 4 resolution that critics see as supporting the rioters?
  3. Cheney now has a higher risk of losing her spot in Congress. What issues are important enough to you to risk losing your power to make change?
  4. How important is party loyalty to you? If you were voting for a member of Congress, would you take party loyalty into account?

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!



Featured Image Credit: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
[1] Washington Post:
[2] NBC News:
[3] Washington Post:
[4] NPR:
[5] New York Times:
[6] House of Representatives:
[7] NBC News:
[8] New York Times:
[9] Ibid.
[10] Twitter:
[11] Twitter:
[12] The Hill: