James Brown didn’t hold back when speaking about NFL owners’ hiring practices before Super Bowl 55.
“When it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, team and league executives and Black ownership, frankly, the track record is pitiful,” said Brown, the host of the CBS pregame show.
Brown’s comments come on the back of a head-coach hiring season that saw one of seven jobs go to a Black man, David Culley, while another went to Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent. For two years, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been at the center of hiring discussions without actually being hired.
In this offseason alone, Bieniemy was interviewed by six of the seven teams seeking a new head coach but not hired anywhere. Alex Smith called Bieniemy’s lack of hiring “ridiculous,” Tyreek Hill said it’s “very shocking” and Patrick Mahomes referred to it as “crazy.”
Brown brought the statistics to back up his point. According to Brown:
- Two of the last 20 NFL head coaches hired have been Black
- There’s one Black team president, and he’s the first
- There are no Black owners
All of that, Brown points out, despite nearly half of the inducted players in the Hall of Fame being Black. Two of the 26 coaches in the Hall of Fame are Black, and none of the six enshrined general managers are Black.
Here’s the transcript of Brown’s pregame message, which he spoke after actor Viola Davis told the story of how Black players fit in to the early NFL:
Let me be honest: It was painfully revealing, the story we just saw, of how owners collaborated in 1933 to consciously and deliberately eliminate Black players from the league. With that ugly practice of barring Black players no longer the case, we see how the game has prospered in popularity and profitability. Still, as Black players have elevated the game, there has been no commensurate rise to their standing as leaders of that game.
When it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, team and league executives and Black ownership, frankly, the track record is pitiful. Just two of the last 20 coaches hired have been Black. There is currently one Black team president, and he is the first. And of course, there are no Black owners.
Nearly half of the inducted playeres in the Hall of Fame are Black, yet only two of the 26 enshrined coaches and none of the six honored general managers are Black. Since the league’s formation in 1920, less than five percent of the nearly 500 head coaches, including interim roles, have been Black, in 100 years.
I’d certainly like to believe today that there’s not even a hint of that calculated exclusion we saw in the ’30s, but can we really attribute this to an issue of unconscious bias when the numbers tell an unambiguous story? Whatever the true cause, the solution is the intention and willingness of the owners.
We’re told that this is an important issue to them, and if so, it is not a complicated issue. Just act on it. Just do it.
Brown first became an employee of CBS in 1984. He worked on the NFL team at Fox from 1994 through 2005, but then he returned to CBS.
Since rejoining CBS, Brown has hosted “The NFL Today,” the network’s Sunday pregame show. He has spoken out on major issues before, including in 2012 after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide and in 2014 after the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.