Companies of all kinds -- both private and public -- are increasingly aware of the importance of inclusion, knowing that their respective customer bases and workforces are made up of many types of different people, and it's best to make decisions informed properly by a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. As much of a no-brainer as this would seem, football has continued in the wrong direction despite efforts to bring people of color into positions of managerial power. And for a league in which 70% of its workers are African-American, it's something untenable.
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell announced the ratification of expansions to the Rooney Rule that are intended to help remedy the problem. The NFL will broaden requirements for inclusion in the interview process beyond just the head coaching position, expanding them to spots in the front office and for coordinators, while loosening teams' ability to deny permission when opposing teams seek approval to consider employees for promotions.
Anything along those lines helps but is fraught with the same downsides of perfunctory tokenism and outright evasion that currently exist. What may matter more is buried in the details.
All 32 teams will now have formal training in implicit and unconscious bias scheduled for this coming fall or winter, a critical aspect of changing the currently exclusive business culture. The success of this won't register immediately in a satisfying way, but eroding these psychological barriers can have the most positive effect over time.
It all comes down to the impossibility of legislating the nebulous idea of comfort, which is the passive, subconscious discrimination that builds the old-boy network the NFL continues to be. If owners can better understand why they feel certain ways about some candidates and not others, it can only improve their ability to find the person truly best for a particular job.
And that's what it comes down to, ultimately, the new awareness of why certain unfair assumptions and biases are preventing those doing the hiring from seeing all that they need to see, moving beyond their own perceptions and preconceived notions to get a full and proper picture of a candidate. It may be human nature to gravitate toward people who remind us of ourselves, but that tendency has to be counterbalanced actively to keep businesses from becoming insularized, in the way that football has so plainly, to its detriment.
The league tabled a half-baked plan to reward teams for hiring coaches and executives of color with added value in the draft, even going to far as to improve draft standing for retaining those people in their jobs. It was a plan roundly panned as potentially having more unintended negative effect than initially expected, and it was removed appropriately. A better idea proposed would be a system that rewards a team with compensatory draft picks when a minority coach or executive is subsequently hired by another team to fill a more powerful position. This incentivizes development in such roles and carries no stigma of secondary status for the people involved. It's another one of the creative options that should be considered.
Hiring inequality caused by latent and misunderstood biases eventually becomes a clear and unfortunate picture, and that's what we're looking at right now in the NFL. A correction will be deliberate and hard to see happen in real time, but it will be a good thing.