In America we often pontificate about the racism in sports, how players are treated, depicted and ultimately paid. All of this comes into play in your average sports bar conversation about the NFL.
But no matter how much we complain here, the impact and influence of blatant and violent racism in American sport is nowhere near what it still is today in European Soccer. I remember a friend of mine from the U.K. telling me years ago how as recently as the early 90s it wasn’t uncommon for British fans to throw banana peels on the field when Black players came out. While English League soccer has increased the number of Black players on the field – and organizations like Kick It Out have been created to combat racism – there are still thick glass ceilings to be broken. Ironically, the British might get their hammer from the American NFL.
During the recent annual NFL game in London NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly encouraged the English Football Association to adopt an American style Rooney Rule when it comes to hiring team managers. The English League has been debating this subject for awhile with national organizations holding forums on the Rooney Rule as well as liberal members of Parliament backing the idea as well. The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was initiated in 2003 and requires that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate when a head coaching job becomes available. It probably helped that while Goodell was making his pitch two NFL teams with black coaches, the Chicago Bears (Lovie Smith) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raheem Morris) happened to be playing in Wembley Stadium, but the positive impact of the rule is pretty apparent to all observers.
There are 92 Soccer teams spread over four tiers of play in the English league and only two managers, Chris Powell and Chris Houghton, are Black. When the Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003 there were only 3 African American head coaches in the NFL. In the 8 years since the rule was initiated, four different African American coaches have made the Super Bowl, two have won it. Now, there are 7 Black and one Hispanic head coach in a league of 32 teams. And for the first time in league history, minority coaches are being fired (if not hired) at the same rate as non-minority coaches.
Here’s hoping the U.K. makes a positive change, but I’m not holding my breath. Remember these are the guys that cancelled Black history month for budgetary reasons.
Dr. Jason Johnson, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson