We remember the quarterback — and the coach — the positions with the deepest meaning, biggest cultural clout and broadest effect.
“I think there is progress, and we’re pleased to see progress,” Goodell said, speaking of diversity in his league, polite and politic, in keeping with his totemic role as a frontman for billionaire team owners. “But it’s never enough.”
No, it’s not.
The reality is that nothing will change until the owners decide it will change.
Predominantly white, conservative and risk-averse, they seem to lack the urgency or sense of moral imperative to alter their ways.
Yes, there’s the Rooney Rule, in place for two decades, meant to level the playing field by mandating minority candidates at least get a small share of job interviews. When it comes to the job on the marquee, the owners make a mockery of the rule. (Hence the lawsuit against the league and three teams brought by the former Miami Dolphins coach, Brian Flores, who claims a pattern of racial discrimination in leaguewide hiring practices.)
Three years ago, when the Carolina Panthers owner, David Tepper, hired a new head coach, Matt Rhule, Tepper gushed about how the two were kindred spirits and how they had both once been short-order cooks. Rhule, he said, “Sweats all over himself. He dresses like me, so I have to love the guy!”
A few dismal games into this season, and after garnering a less-than-sparking record of 11 wins and 27 losses, Rhule was fired. His interim replacement: Steve Wilks, a Black coach who quickly made a floundering team competitive and nearly guided the quarterback-challenged Panthers to the playoffs.
Wilks wanted to stay on permanently.
Who couldn’t guess what happened next?
Wilks was kicked to the curb and replaced by Frank Reich, recently fired by the Indianapolis Colts but nonetheless hailed, as so many white coaches are, as a football genius.
That’s the way of the N.F.L.
So long as it is, even during a history-making Super Bowl week, what is there to celebrate?