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Whitlock: The NFL’s black leadership and ownership ‘crisis’ is a symptom of the black family crisis

Op-ed
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Yesterday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fielded questions from reporters in Los Angeles covering Super Bowl week.

The NFL Network’s Jim Trotter, a well-respected football reporter, asked Goodell about the league’s alleged failure to hire black head coaches, general managers, team presidents or bring on a black team owner. Trotter is black. He’s an elder among NFL reporters. He’s worked at Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and covered the Chargers for years at the San Diego Union-Tribune. I’ve known Trotter for years and respect his work.

His very long-winded question to Goodell implied that anti-black racism is the only explanation the NFL hasn’t met unstated quotas on black coaches, general managers, team presidents, and ownership. According to Trotter, if the league was truly committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity, it would have far more black men in off-field positions of leadership and ownership.

This flimsy logic is never applied to on-field positions. As Trotter noted, 70% of the league’s players are black. Corporate media will never stand before Goodell and wonder why in a country that is 64% white and 50% female, why are there not more white men and women dotting NFL rosters. Trotter and everyone else assumes that the NFL reserves its highest-paid positions for the most qualified regardless of race.

Things only turn racist when it comes to off-field decision-making positions. There, NFL owners ignore qualifications and make race-based decisions.

Goodell played along with Trotter’s loaded, intellectually dishonest, and half-baked question. Goodell is white and scared. Trotter knows Goodell can’t respond honestly. It could cost Goodell his $50-million-a-year job. Goodell danced. He accepted Trotter’s premise that black success is totally dependent on the goodwill of white people.

There actually are alternative ways to examine the plight of black men as it relates to high-profile leadership positions in the NFL.

Let’s start with the easiest one — ownership. NFL teams now sell for $3 billion to $5 billion. As of 2021, according to Forbes, there were roughly 720 billionaires in America. Seven of them are black.

How many black people can afford to buy an NFL franchise? Byron Allen, a comedian and entrepreneur with a net worth estimated around $450 million, desperately wants to buy the Denver Broncos. He’s publicly campaigning for the right to buy the Broncos. Can Allen afford it? Or would he simply be the token black face fronting an ownership bid of people who don’t look like him?

A lot of people would like to buy an NFL franchise. Should the NFL ignore more qualified applicants and give Allen’s group a team to satiate Jim Trotter and other people who believe in the power of tokenism and good public relations? Will the lives of black people be improved if an NFL team has a black token owner?

People who believe that are the same people who believe the "Black Panther" movie was critical to the advancement of black people.

Let’s go to front-office positions and head coaches. I’ve written and talked about this previously. There’s a lot of competition to lead NFL franchises. Do we, black people, undermine our candidate pool with our dysfunctional family structure? If 75% of our last two generations were raised in single-parent households, do we believe there are no consequences from that?

Our family structure is way outside of God’s design. Do we think the charity of guilt-ridden white people can fix problems resulting from the destruction of the family unit?

Every achievement metric can be directly related to family structure. Kids raised in nuclear families out-perform kids raised in single-parent homes in virtually all endeavors. If the black candidate pool collectively has the lowest grades in junior high, high school, and college, should we be surprised that our candidate pool underperforms when it comes to landing the most coveted and competitive jobs in America?

The starting line dictates the finish line.

When it comes to leadership, do black athletes respect and respond well to black male leadership when they grow up in homes with no male leadership?

Yesterday, I wrote and talked about a video the rapper Jim Jones released complaining about his treatment inside of a Gucci store in California. Jones is Aruban and Latino. His mindset mirrors a mentality that is pervasive among black and brown kids 45 and younger. Jones ridiculed the black Gucci employee who tried to address his concerns. He demanded he be helped by a white person.

Corporate media pretends there are no negative outcomes from family dysfunction. The truth is there are too many negative outcomes to list them all.

It’s far more comfortable and popular to chastise Roger Goodell for the jobs black men don’t land within football than to challenge black people to adopt strategies that put them in position to land those jobs.

As long as black men present themselves to the world as believing white men are responsible for our success, we’re going to remain poor candidates for high-profile leadership positions. Those jobs are going to go to the men who believe they control their destiny.

Victims are not leaders. People unwilling to self-examine are not leaders and they’re not serious people. If we really want to produce a competitive crop of leaders, we have to commit to producing more black nuclear families.

A token black owner and Eric Bieienmy landing a head-coaching job won’t fix the black family.

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