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Systemic Racism in Sports

Former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL last week claiming that systemic racism is present in the hiring processes throughout the league. Flores said teams would interview minority head coaching candidates only to fulfill the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires NFL organizations to interview minority candidates when searching for someone to fill a position on their team, per the league’s rulebook

According to Flores’ lawsuit the decision to take legal action was made after Flores received text messages from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick congratulating him for being hired as the next head coach of the New York Giants. The only problem was that Flores was yet to interview, and Belichick had mistakenly texted Brian Flores instead of Brian Daboll, the coach the Giants had already settled on, even before interviewing Flores. Flores’ lawsuit shines an important light on the underlying problem of systemic racism in hiring practices in the NFL, however this is not an issue that is exclusive to the sports association.

Former PLNU Head soccer coach Tim Hall says, “As long as you have humanity, racism is going to be there at different levels, which is very unfortunate”. 

Collegiate athletics and high school athletics are also not exempt from prejudice. Eric Sonheimer of the LA Times notes that the Trinity League, the premier high school football league in California containing nationally ranked teams such as Mater Dei, Saint John Bosco, and Servite has yet to have a black head coach.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Matt Logie explains the hiring process for collegiate coaches.

“Generically speaking, there are many variables (and entities) involved in hiring practices at the collegiate level, and those variables change significantly as you look at the D1 vs D2 vs D3 levels, as well as by sport, so it’s hard for me to provide a generic statement,” Logie said.

Hall suggested that in order to expand the diversity at any level, one must make an effort to recruit people of color to increase the pool of qualified individuals being interviewed for a position. By doing this, Hall said this would increase the “pool of competency” as well as providing people of color with an equal opportunity to get the job. 

Kevin Peterson, former football player for Pacific University, recalls his experience attending a university where the student body was majority Asian with a large population coming from Hawaii.

“There is a lot of challenge with Asians getting accepted into higher level athletics because of their race and experiencing some friends transfer to D1 programs later in their career because they were talented enough but overlooked in the recruiting process,” Peterson said.

Peterson also mentions that players coming from Polynesian or African-American descent often had their achievements credited to their race as opposed to personal achievement. 

Flores continued to interview for multiple head coaching positions after the lawsuit was filed, and for many it was clear he was the best coach on the market, yet teams hired coaches with far less experience and prowess. Flores’ attorneys published a statement claiming that Flores was one of the three finalists for the Houston Texans job, and after a productive interview with mutual interest, it was clear he was not hired solely because of the lawsuit

“Hire people that will be the best for the students, I don’t care what ethnicity,” Hall said.

Written By: Cade Cavin