Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What Am I Missing?

I know this post is going to get me in trouble with my 2 1/2 readers, but oh well, this has been bothering me and I need to get it off my chest.

I like football. I'm not a fanatic, but I love my hometown team the Steelers and I always watch their games. And I watch an occasional non-Steeler game as well. Certainly, I watch the Superbowl every year regardless of who is playing. So this year it is the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. And it is historic, because, for the first time ever, a team coached by an African American head coach is going to the Superbowl. And, as it turns out, not just one team, but BOTH teams going to the Superbowl are coached by African American head coaches. This is historic and I can appreciate that. This is the big story of the Superbowl. This is the story that for the two weeks leading up to the Superbowl every news cast mentions at least two or three times. It's all the commentators can talk about, even some of the Superbowl commercials alluded to this historic occasion. This is fine. It seemed a little bit overkill to me, but I could appreciate the historic nature of the accomplishment, so I didn't think too much of it. Until a couple days before the Superbowl I began to hear some statistics that then got replayed over and over and over again, including several times during the Superbowl itself. And it got me thinking.

First, here are the numbers: In 2006 there were 7 African American NFL head coaches (7 Assistant head coaches, and 190 coaches in other positions). This, in a league of 32 teams. That means that 22% of all head coaches and assistant head coaches in the NFL in 2006 were African American. In the United States, African Americans make up about 13% of the population.

Now here is where I get a little lost. The spin given on these numbers (universally - every news and sports cast that reported these numbers gave the same "interpretation") was as follows. Apparently, while 7 African American head coaches (22%) is evidence of progress in the NFL, the league has a long way to go. It turns out that 65% of all players in the NFL are minorities and of those, the vast majority are black. So, according to the analysts, until at least 65% of all coaches in the NFL are black, the implication is that the NFL will continue to be a bastion of racism, prejudice and inequality.

Am I missing something here? I did a little checking. The minimum rookie salary in the NFL is $285,000. The average NFL player salary is $1.26 million dollars. The median NFL player salary is $557,000. We aren't talking about jobs that no one else wants here. The competition for these positions is intense.

So the suggestion that because more than 60% of the players in the NFL are black, but only 22% of the head coaches are black, NFL management is racist seems absurd to me. The problem doesn't seem to be that "only" 22% of head coaches are black. If anything, clearly the NFL isn't doing a very good job of attracting and recruiting white players into the league.

Yes, that last little bit was facetious. Well 90% so anyway. But the analysis still seems off to me. We are talking about a billion dollar industry here in which the majority of the visible, extremely well paid employees are minorities, and a significant percentage of the middle-to-upper level management (coaching) positions are held by minorities.

It seems to me that the real problem that no one seems to want to talk about are the other minorities that are almost entirely unrepresented in the league. Did you know that there aren't any female players, much less coaches (head or otherwise) in the NFL? Talk about inequity in the workplace! Same thing with openly gay players or head coaches. And apparently the industry completely discriminates against the disabled as well. Not a single blind, deaf, wheel-chair bound, mentally retarded or otherwise physically or mentally disabled player or coach in the bunch. What ever happened to the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Yeah, yeah, I've gone onto an absurd rant here. But I don't think it's any more absurd than the stupid things newscasters and sportscasters were saying about the so-called racism in the hiring of coaches in the NFL.

Am I missing something here?

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