The hiring of the NFL’s first Black team president can have lasting implications (by Brandon Walker)

Now, hire more Black GMs, head coaches, broadcasters, etc.

by Brandon Walker, For New Pittsburgh Courier

It’s funny how one of the perceived most dysfunctional organizations in all of sports is the organization
spearheading the most recent, most dynamic move in diversity and inclusion in the world of sports.

When the Washington Football Team hired Jason Wright as their new team president, he became the first African
American team president in National Football League history and the youngest, at 38. Wright will be responsible
for cleaning up a toxic team culture that has manifested over the course of the past decade under the control
of the departed Bruce Allen that has resulted in a frustrated and eroding fan base.

 

Wright has an impressive resume that includes being a partner in McKinsey and Company global strategy and
management consulting firm, where he advised companies on diversity and inclusion. During his seven-year
playing career, he was the Arizona Cardinals’ team representative for the NFL Players Association during the
2011 NFL lockout.

The groundbreaking hire of Wright is monumental because it should facilitate a change in philosophy in what
owners look for in hiring team executives. The Rooney Rule has grown stale, in my opinion, because no team has
hired a minority team president up until this point. In the past three coaching cycles, there have been 20 head
coaching openings. Only three of the coaches hired were minorities when Arizona hired Steve Wilks, the Miami
Dolphins hired Brian Flores, and Washington hired Ron Rivera. Furthermore, one of those coaches, Wilks, got
fired after one season. There are currently only two minority general managers in the league in Miami’s Chris
Grier and the Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Berry.

Wright has the smarts and charisma to help foster change in the league circles to hire minority general
managers, head coaches, and coordinators. Wright may come up with proposals like having minorities coach
college All-Star games or having assistant coaches attend owners’ meetings to get their names and faces out
there to high-ranking league executives. I think the Rooney Rule has grown stale because they like to chase the
new trends around the league, i.e., finding the next Sean McVay (L.A. Rams) or try to copy “The Patriot Way.”
This reasoning explains why a special teams coordinator by the name of Joe Judge, who is White, receives a head
coaching job (N.Y. Giants) before Eric Bieniemy, a former NFL running back who is Black. Bieniemy has helped in
the development of the best quarterback in the NFL today in Patrick Mahomes…but can’t find a head coaching job
in the league.

The Washington Football Team also recently hired Julie Donaldson as their Senior Vice President of Media,
replacing the longtime play-by-play broadcaster Larry Michael. Michael “retired” after a Washington Post report
in July that implicated Michael and other team executives in sexual harassment allegations. The 42-year-old
Donaldson is the first woman in NFL history to hold that position. Donaldson had held many on-air desk
assignments, including three Olympic games and a weekend anchor for NBC Sports.

Donaldson will be responsible for not only being a voice on Washington’s media airwaves, and in their front
office, she will prove that women can be successful in running a sports media operation. It will demonstrate
that women are more than just “eye candy” in the sports world, and that they know the game and can produce
great content.

With two new faces in one organization, the sports world has changed for the better, and their influence on
sports and our society will be affected for years to come.

BRANDON WALKER

 

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