In 1989, the Los Angeles Raiders hired Art Shell, who became the first Black head coach in the modern history of the National Football League.
He is one of 191 people who have been head coaches in the three-plus decades since.
A brief uptick of Black coaching hires in the mid-2000s provided hope that racial equity was within reach. But that glimmer of progress was a mirage. In the 33 years since Shell’s hiring, just 24 other head coaches have been Black. Despite the league’s end-zone pledge to “END RACISM,” Black coaches continue to be denied top jobs in a league in which nearly 60 percent of the players are Black.
It is a glaring shortcoming for the NFL, one highlighted by the findings of an investigation by The Washington Post. Black coaches tend to perform about as well as White coaches, The Post found. But while White candidates are offered a vast and diverse set of routes to the league’s top coaching jobs, Black coaches face a much narrower set of paths. They have had to serve significantly longer as mid-level assistants, are more likely to be given interim jobs than full-time ones and are held to a higher standard when it comes to keeping their jobs.
Since 1990, Black coaches have been twice as likely as others to be fired after leading a team to a regular season record of .500 or better.
Amid growing scrutiny of the issue, The Post compiled and analyzed three decades’ worth of data and conducted interviews with 16 of the 24 living current and former NFL head coaches who identify as Black, as well as dozens of other coaches, former players, team executives, agents and others.
You can read the full story here. Other stories in the “Black Out” project include:
- Key findings
- Video interviews with coaches who made it
- How the Post gathered and analyzed data