NFL ‘Rooney Rule’ on Diversity Targeted by Trump Adviser’s Group

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(Bloomberg Law) — America First Legal has requested a civil rights probe on the legality of a longstanding National Football League rule aimed at increasing diversity in teams’ coaching and management positions.

AFL wrote to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday, just days before the NFL’s Super Bowl, demanding agency commissioners investigate the NFL’s use of the “Rooney Rule.” It claims the rule results in fewer opportunities for non-minority candidates in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The group also sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The “Rooney Rule,” which was adopted in 2003, was named after the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. It requires teams to interview at least two candidates of color for head coaching and general manager positions and at least one minority or female candidate for senior level positions.

Over the past year AFL, headed by Trump adviser Stephen Miller, has accused over a dozen companies and organizations—including IBM, Major League Baseball, McDonald’s Corp., and Starbucks Corp.—of having discriminatory diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. The EEOC hasn’t publicly responded to the group’s requests for commissioner charges, which can be filed by any of the five members of the agency’s leadership panel and don’t require employees or applicants to submit a discrimination charge.

Commissioner charges are relatively rare but have seen a significant bump in recent years, with 35 charges filed in fiscal year 2023, a jump from the 29 filed in the previous fiscal year and the three filed in 2021.

In its letter to the EEOC, AFL also pointed to the NFL’s 2022 leadership program for women of color and its development program for “college-level officials not yet working in the NFL” with an “emphasis on diverse candidates” as illegal.

“It is abundantly clear that the NFL and its member teams do indeed limit, segregate, or classify their employees or applicants for employment in ways that deprive at least some individuals of interview and employment opportunities specifically because of race, color, or sex,” the legal group said.

The NFL didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Riddhi Setty in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at [email protected]; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at [email protected]

(Updated to indicate NFL comment request.)

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Published: 07 Feb 2024, 12:33 AM IST

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