The Rooney Rule…will it work in Pittsburgh?




The Rooney Rule, can it work in the corporate and nonprofit world of Pittsburgh and beyond?

According to the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh “State of Black Pittsburgh” reports every year Blacks are way behind Whites in just about every aspect of progress, with employment and education being the biggies. In an effort to remedy this problem Tim Stevens, head of B-PEP and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald pulled together a meeting with several of the corporations, and non-profits to discuss how they can improve the state of Black Pittsburghers with the Rooney Rule.  

The Rooney Rule was implemented in the NFL a few years back to get more Blacks an opportunity to be head coaches and front office management in the league. The thought was that the more Blacks interviewed the more chance they would have of being hired, or at least changing the views of management toward Blacks being qualified for these positions.  

The Rule is that for every opening for head coach or front office position the team must interview at least one Black applicant. They don’t have to hire the person just interview them.  The thinking was by interviewing more Blacks owners would get to know them and views of them not being able to lead would be eliminated.

This is a great idea but can it work with all the businesses not only throughout Pittsburgh but the rest of the country? Plus how do you monitor this?

In the NFL there are 32 teams, and each team is widely covered by the media in everything they do. So when there’s an opening everyone knows about it, especially head coach, but that is not the case with the hundreds of businesses throughout the city and the country. So how can they make it work?

First do just what Tim Stevens and others did. Identify the top employers in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania and target them for a commitment.

Once they are identified, some type of monitoring system must be put into place to identify what these companies are doing to bring about diversity, employment of Blacks, at every level.

In the NFL, with the exception of quarterback, Blacks dominate the league making up 70 to 80 percent and that number is rising. This is not the case in the business world. So the NFL doesn’t even have to worry about the overall employment, where as in the corporate world this is a different story.

So my question is. Will the Rooney Rule just be for management or all positions in the corporate and nonprofit world? And will it expand from private to county and city employment?

This is a great start and Stevens and Fitzgerald are to be commended for the effort. But as Esther Bush said, this will have to be monitored, monitored, and monitored for it to work.

The Rooney Rule started off great in the NFL but the past few years they have slacked off greatly, with several teams hiring front office and head coaches without interviewing Blacks. There have been some complaints but nothing major has been done about it, especially teams which are beginning to look exclusively to the college ranks, where there are fewer Blacks to choose from. As a result the number of Black coaches have dwindled down to only three, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Leslie Frazier in Minnesota, and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh.

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