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NFL expands Rooney rule but backs off incentive proposal

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Los Angeles (AFP)

National Football League team owners on Tuesday approved a package of measures aimed at strengthening the league's Rooney Rule hiring policy but backed off a proposal which would have offered incentives to teams for appointing minorities.

The NFL said in a statement teams would now be required to interview a minimum of two external minority candidates for head coach vacancies -- instead of one -- while one minority candidate must be interviewed for any coordinator role.

At least one external minority candidate must also be interviewed for positions of senior football operations or general manager.

The league has also expanded application of the Rooney to include a wider range of executive positions at each franchise.

"The NFL is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I believe is critical to our continued success," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

"While we have seen positive strides in our coaching ranks over the years aided by the Rooney Rule, we recognize, after the last two seasons, that we can and must do more.

"The policy changes made today are bold and demonstrate the commitment of our ownership to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the league."

The NFL was one of the first professional leagues to require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching and senior management positions, establishing its "Rooney Rule" in 2003.

But despite the groundbreaking affirmative action policy, only four of 32 head coaching jobs across the NFL are held by minorities in a league where 70% of players are African-American.

- Incentive scheme on hold -

The issue came under intense scrutiny last season after it emerged that the Kansas City Chiefs' African-American offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy,had been passed over for no fewer than seven head coaching positions over the past two years.

Goodell acknowledged the problem in remarks ahead of this year's Super Bowl, vowing to address the issue in the off-season.

"Clearly we are not where we want to be," Goodell said.

However while approving an expanded use of the Rooney Rule, the NFL on Tuesday put a hold on a proposal that would have rewarded teams with higher draft picks for hiring minorities.

Under the proposal, a team hiring a minority head coach would see their place in the third round of the draft automatically bumped up six places.

A team hiring a minority general manager would see the same third round pick move up 10 slots.

Teams appointing head coaches or general managers would also have received an additional boost in draft positions if the individuals were still hired after one year.

The revolutionary proposal had met with criticism from across the league, with Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn -- one of the four minority head coaches in the NFL -- among those to voice misgivings.

"I think sometimes you can do the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing," Lynn told CBS Sports Radio in an interview last week.

Lynn believes African American coaches need simply to be given an opportunity rather than a boost through an incentive scheme.

"There are some qualified applicants, and they need an opportunity, and I think this is — out of desperation this is something that has been thrown out there," Lynn said.

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