NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Says League Will Re-Evaluate Rooney Rule

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will re-evaluate the current Rooney Rule, which requires the interviews of minority candidates for coaching and executive positions, in response to a lawsuit filed last week by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

"What we're gonna do is step back and look at everything we're doing today, re-evaluate that, everything from looking at the Rooney Rule, seeing what changes should be made to that, if any changes, or should it be removed, which some people have suggested," Goodell said at his annual press conference ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl.

Goodell spoke to reporters from a stage alongside a host who opened the discussion outside SoFi Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LVI. The commissioner fielded several questions from local and international media ranging from the locations of international games next season and future Super Bowls to the ongoing investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder.

However, the bulk of the 40-minute press conference centered around the Rooney Rule, as discussions of hiring policies of teams around the league have increased in recent weeks following Flores' lawsuit.

The Rooney Rule was put into place in the NFL starting in 2003, named for the then-chairman of the league's Workplace Diversity Committee, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. The original rule required at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for head coaching vacancies as the league tried to address the low number of minority coaches throughout the history of a league that is majority non-white.

But overall hiring problems persist, most notably among head coaches. Just two, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and this week Houston's Lovie Smith, of the NFL's 32 head coaches are Black. Mike McDaniel, who is multiracial, was recently hired by the Miami Dolphins.

In 2009, the rule was expanded to front office positions like general manager, and teams were required to interview at least two minority candidates that did not already work for the franchise.

Over the past two years, the rule has been amended twice, in 2020 to add a system to award compensatory draft picks to teams that hire minority coaches or executives that are eventually hired away by another team, and again in 2021 to increase the number of external minority candidates that are required to be interviewed for coaching and coordinator positions. The 2021 change also required minority or female candidates to be interviewed for high-level executive positions among teams.

Last week, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit alleging discriminatory hiring practices by at least two NFL teams and said the interviews he had with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants were not taken seriously by the teams and were conducted only to fulfill the Rooney Rule requirements.

Goodell was also asked Wednesday about the league's statement that was issued soon after the lawsuit was announced that said Flores' claims were "without merit" in comparison to a memo reportedly sent by Goodell to NFL teams over the weekend that said the league's efforts to promote diversity in the coaching ranks have been "unacceptable."

"I think the initial reaction was regarding the legal claims themselves and not really what we would say the experiences of what Coach Flores was going through," Goodell said on Wednesday.

"We're not doing a good enough job here," he said later. "We need to find better solutions and better outcomes."

Goodell was also pressed on whether he bears responsibility for the lack of progress made in diversity hiring among the league considering he has been commissioner for 15 years.

"The answer is yes, I do," Goodell said.

Update 2/9/22 at 4:50 p.m.: This story has been updated with additional quotes from Goodell, as well as context to the Rooney Rule and the lawsuit filed by Brian Flores.

Roger Goodell NFL Rooney Rule Press Conference
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will re-evaluate the league's Rooney Rule, which aims to increase diversity in coaching and executive positions. Above, Goodell addresses the media Wednesday at the NFL Network's Champions Field at the NFL Media Building on the SoFi Stadium campus in Inglewood, California. Rob Carr/Getty Images