The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Racism in the NFL

Feb 14, 2022

When Brian Flores filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL (National Football League) for racial discrimination in its hiring of head football coaches, he was openly stating what has been an obvious truth.

Flores is the former coach of the Miami Dolphins, who was fired despite having a winning record in the previous 2 seasons. When Flores went to an interview for a job with the New York Giants, he found out that the team had already decided to hire another coach who was white. Flores was being given a sham interview only for appearance purposes—so that the team could say it was “considering” hiring a black coach.

What happened to Flores was a continuation of the NFL’s racist history when it comes to hiring black men as head coaches. When Flores filed his lawsuit, there was only one black head coach out of the 32 teams in the NFL, a league in which 70% of the players are black!

The NFL is the richest and most prominent sports league in this country. It is also the worst when it comes to the hiring of black head coaches. While black men were also being denied the chance to be hired as head coaches in pro basketball, and as managers in major league baseball, the NFL was the last major sports league to hire a black head coach. That happened in 1989, when Art Shell was hired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Since 1989, there have been 141 white men who have been hired as head coaches in the NFL and only 19 black men.

The lack of black head coaches has nothing to do with coaching ability in winning and losing games. In 2002, when civil rights attorneys threatened a lawsuit against the NFL, they presented a study that showed that those few black head coaches up to that time actually had more success than white head coaches.

In the 2007 Super Bowl, the head coaches of both teams, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, were black. Other black coaches have had success in the NFL, including Dennis Green and Jim Caldwell. But all of these coaches shared something in common with Art Shell and Brian Flores—they were all eventually fired, despite their winning records.

This discrimination by the NFL is just part of the racism evident in the whole sports world. In the highest level of college football, where 60% of the players are black, only 14 out of 130 teams currently have black head coaches. And that is the highest number it has ever been.

Brian Flores said that he knew that he might be blackballed from ever getting another head coaching job because he filed his lawsuit and openly challenged the racism in the NFL. He talked about what happened to Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled for the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice and has been kept out of the NFL ever since. Flores, like Kaepernick, is to be applauded for taking a stand.