NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will review its diversity, equity and inclusion policies, calling the lack of Black head coaches “unacceptable,” in a leaguewide memo sent to club executives and presidents on Saturday.
The commissioner’s memo comes amid ongoing criticism over the league’s lack of diversity in leadership positions and after a bombshell lawsuit filed Tuesday by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores alleging racial discrimination.
“We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas,” Goodell said in the memo obtained by CNN. “However we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.”
Flores’ attorneys on Saturday called Goodell’s memo a public relations ploy, adding he has not reached out to them to initiate discussions to promote “real change.”
In a league in which roughly 70% of the players are Black, only one out of 28 head coaches employed by the NFL is Black; the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin. Four teams presently are without a head coach. There are two other non-Black minority coaches in the league, Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent and New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent.
In his memo, Goodell vowed the league will reevaluate its policies relating to diversity, equity and inclusion by retaining outside experts to assist in the review and will solicit input from current and former players and coaches as well.
“We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week,” Goodell wrote. “While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
In a response to Flores’ lawsuit earlier this week, the NFL called his allegations meritless, saying in a statement, “diversity is core to everything we do.”
Among several allegations in the suit, Flores claimed Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him to purposely lose games in order to secure a higher pick in the NFL draft and encouraged him to violate league tampering rules. Flores says when he refused, Ross led a campaign to treat him with “disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
In light of the allegation, Goodell wrote the league takes “seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games,” adding such matters “will be reviewed thoroughly and independently.”
“There is much work to do, and we will embrace this moment and seize the opportunity to become a stronger, more inclusive league,” Goodell concluded.
In response to the memo, Flores’ attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and John Elefterakis, said in their Saturday statement the NFL quickly denied Flores’ allegations “without any investigation,” and said instead, the league should view the lawsuit “as an opportunity to engage in real change and confront the obvious reality.”
The attorneys accused the league of hiding “behind the cover of foundations” supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, while letting “systemic racial bias fester in its front offices.”
“The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed,” their statement said, adding they would be “pleased” to talk with Goodell about how to bring about change, but he has not reached out.
“In fact, nobody from the NFL has reached out to us,” their statement added. “Absent such a discussion followed by unbiased and concrete change, we believe that a court or governmental agency must order a federal monitor to oversee the NFL as the NFL cannot continue to police itself.”
CNN reached out to the NFL in regard to the latest statement from Flores’ attorneys but did not immediately hear back.
CNN’s Wayne Sterling and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.