This column is for non-sports fans who would like some enlightenment and hopefully humor without being sports fanatics.
Race to the Top
One doesn’t believe that former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is scheming and calculating enough to bring his racism suit against the National Football League for ignoring racial equality in hiring head coaches and general managers during Black History Month, but he sure rang the right bell at the right time.
Flores’ suit is justified and drew attention to what has been an ongoing farce cum tragedy in how NFL teams have been stymying any real move toward diversity, with the league offices doing their best Three Monkeys impersonation as the problem persists.
As Motif goes to press, Flores was just hired as a senior assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Flores’ previous interviews with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos were simply window dressing, along the lines of “Some of my best friends are Black.” But here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?
The fact that he was hired by the Steelers is poetic justice, if not precision.
The so-called “Rooney Rule” at the basis of Flores’ legal complaint demands that NFL teams must legitimately interview at least a pair of minority candidates for top-level management jobs. It was instituted by Steelers owner Dan Rooney and has since had that torch carried by generations of his family. In this case, as they always had, they put their money where their mouth was in taking on the now-controversial Flores.
But years ago they had done the same thing in hiring a little-known coach in his thirties named Mike Tomlin, a dead-ringer for actor Omar Epps, who has since won a Super Bowl and never had a losing season with the black and gold.
(Quick aside here: I always had affection for the Steelers while growing up, those hard-ass teams of Bobby Layne and John Henry Johnson, because post-1960, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles sucked almost as much as they did. And this love affair grew more recently when at Christmas, my girlfriend and I would spend the holiday with her family where she grew up in Steel City. This almost got me killed, because when I went to work out at the local gym, I had fortunately borrowed her nephew’s local color exercise clothes, having left my N.E. Patriots logo workout stuff at home, and when I got to the fitness center everyone − and I mean everyone − had on the black and gold, rather than the red, white and blue of their arch-rivals, the Pats. Saved me from getting the shit kicked out of me in the locker room by guys who could have bench-pressed my car.)
But back to the current contretemps. The NFL is a Billionaire Boys Club of aging, good ol’ white team owners, however narcissistically inept (take a bow, Jerry Jones), with Commissioner Roger Goodell their reliable lap dog. One might say that they act like plantation owners in a league whose players are 70 percent black, but one guesses such harsh judgment would be wrong. Well, fuck ‘em, because except for the Rooneys and the minority of the rich boys who run the league, that is spot on.
This is all very sad, because at the competitors’ level, sports is and always has been the racial equalizer. No matter black, white, Hispanic, Filipino, Slavic, etc., these are the guys who fight with and for you, and you’re most likely showering with them as a group almost every day, which getting naked can do to really cut through any biases you may have. And nobody is about to call someone on the other team an n-word when that Black guy in the locker next to you has just saved your ass and gotten you a win because of his dedication to the whole squad.
The NFL, a monster business enterprise with no scruples, needs to be brought to ground and reality by lawsuits such as that of Brian Flores. The NFL response will doubtless continue to be as truthless and obfuscating as a Pentagon press briefing, but hang tough and push on.
Sooner or later the sun will shine on these deceptions and let punks like Roger Goodell and the NFL owners shrivel in the heat, like the Wicked Witch melting in water in “The Wizard of Oz.” And none too late.
Thanks, Brian, Mike and the Rooneys.