The Oakland Raiders followed up the blockbuster announcement of the off-season with a splash of controversy.
When the Raiders fired former head coach Jack Del Rio on New Year’s Eve to bring in Jon Gruden, the sports world was ecstatic. Over a decade after the ‘Tuck Rule’ caused Al Davis to trade the charismatic coach to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was back home. Now people are wondering if the iconic franchise complied with the ‘Rooney Rule’, a league mandate that dictates a franchise absolutely must interview a minority coach before hiring anyone.
The Lunacy of the Rooney Rule vs. The Oakland Raiders
In a way, these people are correct in questioning the Raiders. After all, it appears as if Gruden agreed to coach the Raiders while Del Rio was still their coach. If Gruden and Oakland had come to terms before Del Rio was out the door, how could they have seriously interviewed a minority?
The answer is that they couldn’t have, not seriously anyway. In all honesty, there were only two men that Mark Davis planned on coaching the 2018 Oakland Raiders, either Jon Gruden or Jack Del Rio. Davis wouldn’t have fired Del Rio unless he was going to hire Gruden, which will most certainly be used as evidence that the team did not honor the Rooney Rule. However…
It’s true the Raiders didn’t intend to hire another coach, and that they definitely banged out the details while Del Rio was the head coach of the squad. However, they did interview minority coaches before officially making the hire. During Gruden’s introductory press conference, they were asked if the team followed the Rooney Rule, and general manager Reggie McKenzie said they had interviewed their tight end coach, Bobby Johnson, as well as USC’s offensive coordinator, Tee Martin.
It’s also true the Silver and Black had no intention of hiring either of these men, but that’s not what the rule is. The rule doesn’t say the Raiders have to seriously consider it, just that it pertains to having an open process, which legally, they did. Jon Gruden could’ve changed his mind before the press conference, as that’s the moment the hire became official.
The Al Davis Rule
All that said, it is laughable that anyone has the audacity to accuse the Oakland Raiders of being racist. It’s called the Rooney Rule, but really, any rule about giving people of different cultural backgrounds a chance should’ve been named after iconic Raider owner, Al Davis. After all, it was Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders as a franchise that has been pushing for equality since the beginning of the NFL’s history.
It was Al Davis, who in 1963, refused to have his Raiders play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama because the city wouldn’t allow African Americans to stay at the same hotels as Caucasians. In 1965, the All-Star game was being held in New Orleans, which was still segregated at the time, and Mr. Davis fought the AFL, refusing to take his players there.
A year later, when he became the commissioner of the AFL, Davis insisted the league could compete with the NFL by giving players from historically black colleges more looks. And it wasn’t just talk, when Davis returned to take over the Raiders, some of the most iconic Raiders in history came from traditionally black colleges. Players like Gene Upshaw, (old man) Willie Brown, and Art Shell.
Coaching and Management
Speaking of Art Shell, Davis didn’t limit his stance of prejudice to players. In 1979, he promoted assistant coach and former quarterback, Tom Flores to head coach. Aside from being the first Hispanic quarterback in the history of professional football, he was also the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl.
Furthermore, it was Al Davis that hired the first African American coach in NFL history when he gave former Raider, Art Shell a crack at the job. He even re-hired Shell again in 2006 and was a vital part of Gene Upshaw’s rise to become the head of the NFL’s Player Association. It wasn’t just about race either, because, in 1997, Davis hired Amy Trask, the first female executive in NFL history.
This is all ancient history, right? After all, it was Al, not Mark Davis that did most of these things. Perhaps the apple has fallen far from the tree, and in a socially progressive NFL, Mark Davis is a bigoted fossil. Though, this does raise one question. If Mark Davis is some racist, why is he one of two owners in the NFL with an African American general manager?
Outside of Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie is the only other African American general manager in the NFL. That’s what made the question at Gruden’s press conference so awkward. They were asking an African American about whether or not he was being fair to African Americans during his coaching search.
The Rule Works
The rule works. There’s no question that the Rooney Rule works. When you look at the number of minority coaches that have received jobs since the inception of the rule at the beginning of the millennia. However, this rule was put in to hold teams accountable and create equal opportunities for all. The Raiders are a proud franchise that has fought racism and prejudice in the NFL since the beginning, and it wasn’t that they were intentionally barring minorities from coaching opportunities as much as they were pursuing a specific coaching candidate.
If the rumors were true and Bill Belichick left New England, stating he only wanted to coach the New York Giants, do you think the Giants would seriously consider any other candidate? Sure, they would interview someone to satisfy the rule, but that’s exactly what the Raiders did.
The Hard Truth
The hard truth of the matter is that people are looking for something to be upset about. No, the Oakland Raiders didn’t seriously consider hiring a minority coach. That much is true. But legally? They interviewed two men before Chucky put pen to paper. And if you’re worried about the Raiders, again, one of two franchises in the NFL with an African American general manager, violating the spirit of the rule? They didn’t seriously consider hiring anyone that wasn’t named Jon Gruden, and considering all that this franchise has done for equality in the National Football League, this whole ordeal is silly.