Advocating for policies, accountability, and transparency measures that open pathways for minorities to advance into leadership roles.
For over two decades, the FPA has steadfastly advocated for policies, accountability, and transparency measures that open pathways for minorities to advance into leadership roles. We strive to uphold the ideals of equal opportunity that Fritz Pollard represented as a pioneer. Since our inception, we have sought to make a significant impact toward leveling the playing field and upholding principles of fairness across the NFL.
Advocating for the Rooney Rule
One of the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s most significant achievements has been its role in establishing and advocating for the Rooney Rule. Implemented in 2003, the Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations positions.
The rule was spearheaded by FPA co-founder and legendary coach John Wooten. It was named after Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and head of the League’s diversity committee. The alliance urged the adoption of the Rooney Rule to address the underrepresentation of minority coaches, even though approximately 70% of the players in the NFL are African American.
Over the years, the FPA has continued to aggressively push for strengthening and consistent enforcement of the Rooney Rule. We have called for measures such as requiring in-person interviews, expanding the scope to include coordinators and front-office executives, and instituting penalties for violations. When the NFL expanded the rule in 2009 to include general manager jobs and equivalent front-office positions, it was a direct result of the FPA’s advocacy.
Recently, we have focused on ensuring compliance through inquiries into coaching and executive hires that may have violated the Rooney Rule. For example, in 2022, the FPA raised concerns about the Indianapolis Colts’ expedited hiring of Jeff Saturday as interim head coach without a thorough, diverse search process. Our diligent oversight keeps issues surrounding minority hiring in the spotlight and continues to drive accountability.
Holding the NFL Accountable
In addition to advocating for strict adherence to the Rooney Rule, the FPA has supported legal cases that challenge racial discrimination and mistreatment. Most recently, we backed renowned sports journalist Jim Trotter in his lawsuit alleging years of discrimination and retaliation by the NFL.
The FPA’s support keeps attention focused on the need to address inequities within the league and related industries. We understand that positive change happens through transparency, enforcement, and sometimes difficult conversations. By boldly speaking truth to power, we strive to live up to our namesake’s pioneering legacy.
Championing Opportunity and Equality
Beyond advocacy, the Fritz Pollard Alliance proactively works to expand opportunities for minorities seeking NFL coaching and front-office jobs. We lead a variety of initiatives aimed at identifying, nurturing, and promoting new diverse talent within the league.
The FPA hosts annual combines, workshops, and networking events specifically for minority coaches, scouts, and aspiring team executives. Our career development conferences provide invaluable training, mentoring, and exposure to executives within the NFL power structure.
In collaboration with the NFL, the FPA also runs pipeline programs such as the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, which places aspiring coaches in summer training camps. We also partner with organizations such as the Black College Football Hall of Fame on internship and scouting programs focused on recognizing and cultivating talent at historically black colleges and universities.
The FPA also created the Accelerator Program, a pivotal initiative designed to fast-track the advancement of minority candidates in coaching and front-office positions. The program brings together a diverse group of promising head coach and general manager prospects from various NFL clubs and the league itself, focusing on identifying and developing talent among underrepresented groups in football leadership. Although the NFL took full credit for the Accelerator Program, it is important to note that the FPA not only originated this program but also meticulously designs its focus and sessions for each iteration.
At its heart, the FPA’s work is about expanding opportunities for all. We believe that a focus on developing and promoting minority talent not only opens doors for individuals but also makes the league and its teams stronger and more inclusive.
While progress has been made, diversity and inclusion in the NFL remains an ongoing challenge. Despite stronger minority candidate pipelines, coaching and management roles continue to be disproportionately weighted against minority hiring.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance’s mission and advocacy remains essential now more than ever. We will continue advocating for strengthened policies, accountability measures, and expanded access for minority candidates, because there is still much work to be done.
On a broader level, the FPA will keep striving to inspire future generations of leaders and advocates who will carry on the organization’s mission. By championing trailblazers like Fritz Pollard, we hope to motivate others to fight for justice and speak truth to power.
The NFL will be stronger when it fully reflects the diversity of our society. Although the journey is long, we at the FPA remain dedicated to the righteous pioneers of the past and the young leaders of tomorrow. Our vision is a league of diversity, equity, and inclusion that lives up to its highest ideals.