Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has publicly acknowledged the NFL and its teams can do a better job of hiring more diverse candidates.
Jones’ comments — made Wednesday as he attended a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala. — came in response to former Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the league. The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges the NFL willfully engages in discriminatory hiring practices, namely head coaching, coordinator and executive positions.
The suit also accuses teams of conducting sham interviews simply to adhere to the league’s Rooney Rule, which mandates at least two external minority hires for head coaching, coordinator and executive positions.
“I can see it’s an area, one of many, that we can do better,” Jones said Wednesday (via USA Today). “The area has some good attention. This is obvious if you look through that that the league and coaches are trying to improve there.”
Flores in his suit claimed to have received “sham” interviews with the Broncos in 2019 and again with the Giants in 2021. Specifically, he claimed Patriots coach Bill Belichick texted him — seemingly thinking he was talking to Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll — to congratulate him on getting the Giants job. Flores had yet to interview for the position.
Jones declined to speak directly on Flores’ accusations against other teams, but said that as the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, he is aware of dialogue surrounding more diverse hires within the league.
“I think the fact that it’s an issue shows not only the league’s willingness to address and do better,” Jones said. “I think the fact that it’s being discussed as to how the Rooney Rule or what drives the Rooney Rule could be better. In the case of coach Flores’ complaint, he’s saying it could be better and the processes create positive result for the league.”
The NFL, however, vehemently denied Flores’ claims, which it said were “without merit.”
“The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues in which our clubs and internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”
The NFL had three Black head coaches during the 2021 season: Flores, David Culley of the Texans and Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. Following the conclusion of the regular season, Flores and Culley were both fired, leaving Tomlin as the only Black NFL coach. The NFL had two active Black coaches in 2003, the season in which the Rooney Rule was implemented by the league.
The Cowboys have never had a Black coach and have not had a Black coordinator since defensive coordinator Brian Stewart (2007-08, under Wade Phillips). While Jones said the league has made headway in making more diverse hires, he admitted the standard for that will increase over time.
“We’re a league of many boxes, of all kinds, in many, many areas,” Jones said. “I never dreamed we could check as many boxes as we can check. But the more we become substantive — and we’re a lot more substantive as a league and as a sport than we ever were when I got involved 30-something years ago — and we’re more pertinent and more germane than we were 10 years ago. The more that happens, the more boxes we’re going to have come up that we need to check.
“As long as this league is continuing to be the influence that we are, by the interest in the game, by continuing to try to improve over time, the list of boxes we’ll need to address will get bigger. And we’ll have to spend more time checking more boxes. But I welcome that. How would you like for nobody to be interested and nobody to even look at it or have boxes to check?”