In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Mehri & Skalet founding partner Cyrus Mehri examines Coach Brian Flores’s lawsuit against the NFL and the future of the Rooney Rule. Mr. Mehri played an integral part in creating the Rooney Rule, leveling the playing field for coaches of color.
But in recent years, the number of Black head coaches has plummeted while frustrations in the league skyrocket, exemplified by Coach Flores’s lawsuit alleging discrimination against coaches of color. Mr. Mehri writes that the issue isn’t with the Rooney Rule but with accountability and enforcement.
“The league must make clear to teams that equal opportunity policies, including the Rooney Rule, will be enforced. A bright young coach is possibly sacrificing his career to take a stand against racial bias. The very least we can do as a country is to uphold the value of fair competition. There is no doubt in my mind that if the NFL does what’s right, it will achieve new success in the struggle for equal opportunity.”
Cyrus Mehri joined The New York Times’ news podcast, “The Daily,” for an in-depth discussion on the history of the Rooney Rule and the current debate surrounding the rule.
“Racial progress is fragile. You can lose it in a heartbeat,” said Mr. Mehri, acknowledging the NFL’s recent setbacks regarding diversity and inclusion.
But while some critics have called on the NFL to abolish the Rooney Rule, Mr. Mehri argues that the rule needs to be strengthened, not repealed: “You build on the laws, you build on your infrastructure, you build on the tools — you don’t destroy them.”
As Coach Brian Flores pushes for accountability in the NFL, Cyrus Mehri and N. Jeremi Duru, Of Counsel to Mehri & Skalet and a law professor at American University specializing in sports law, civil procedure and employment discrimination, provided crucial analysis in the media on the lawsuit, the future of the NFL and the Rooney Rule.
“What needs to be changed with respect to the Rooney Rule is not the rule, but owners’ compliance with the rule and the league’s willingness to come down hard on owners when they violate the rule,” said Mr. Duru to CNN. “The rule and the concept behind the rule are, in my view, strong. Compliance with the rule is, in my view, sorely lacking and that’s where the disconnect is and that’s what led to this lawsuit.”
Mr. Mehri discussed the Rooney Rule on NPR’s All Things Considered, the NFL’s poor enforcement of the rule in Bloomberg Law and emphasized that the rule can work only if there’s oversight and accountability in TIME and The Guardian. Mr. Mehri also shared best practices for using the Rooney Rule in an article for Working IDEAL.