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Anti-DEI Group Targets Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule refers to a National Football League directive that requires teams to include minority candidates in interviews for head coaching positions. Adopted in 2003, football teams must interview at least two external minority or female candidates for every head coach, general manager, and coordinator position, and at least one minority or female candidate for a vacant quarterback coach position or any senior-level executive position. Many companies have implemented versions of the rule to expand their hiring pools, with some entities wanting up to three-quarters of their candidates to come from underrepresented groups.

America First Legal, a conservative legal nonprofit, added the Rooney rule as its latest legal challenge to workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A senior advisor from the conservative organization told the Washington Post, "If the National Football League truly wants to end discrimination in the employment process, then the NFL should stop discriminating in the employment process, follow the meritocratic system it displays on the field, and eliminate the Rooney Rule."

In response to America First Legal, the NFL asserted it is “proud of the work” it has done to promote equal employment opportunities for “women and people of color and the resulting growth in diversity” in the NFL. It is worth noting that the number of Black head coaches in the NFL has never exceeded 10 out of the 32 positions. Some district court cases upheld the practice of expanding candidate hiring pools several decades ago, long before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled race could not be a factor in university admissions last year. Thus far, no legal precedent exists against creating a diverse slate of candidates.