When news broke about the Raiders offering Jon Gruden a king’s ransom to return to Oakland, many rejoiced. At the same time, an uncomfortable thought swirled around RaiderNation and the NFL entirely. The question of whether the Raiders would adhere to the Rooney Rule morphed into accusations of them ignoring it. This caused a negative, actually divisively ugly argument between fans and media.
First, all signs point to Jon Gruden becoming the next coach of the Oakland Raiders. That is not the problem. The issue of announcement timing sat wrong with many. How can the Raiders subvert a league rule? Well, they really have not. At the present time, Gruden’s signatures on any documents making him head coach do not exist. As a result, the assumption of the job is where people become annoyed at the process.
If you look around the NFL, eight minority coaches helm teams. While that number appears impressive, consider that roughly 70 percent of the league’s players are Black, that coaching stat should alarm you. Granted, teams will hire whomever they choose. With that understood, the league wants qualified minority candidates to enjoy the opportunity to receive an interview. To many, the Gruden news looks like the Raiders made an end run around the rule. In that case, any minority interviewed knows the process is a sham. The Raiders do not intend to tender an offer. So, why apply for a job that you will not get? If you hear to blind loyalists, the interviews still mean a foot in the door. With no possible payoff, the door is not open for a foot.
In addition, many within RaiderNation hold up the team’s dedication to front office/coaching equality as a reason to ignore the rule. They cite Oakland as the first franchise to start a Latino quarterback, hire a female CEO and Black head coach. Yes, all of this is true. However, the league and media are concerned with things currently. No one with an ounce of common sense should ever use the word racism when it pertains to the Oakland Raiders organization. The Davis family went to extraordinary lengths to break down barriers. Speaking of team history, Amy Trask weighed in. If Trask speaks of Al Davis, she knows first-hand, while others can only speculate.
Shockingly, if you peruse social media, you’ll see local media and fans alike dismissing the rule as unnecessary or unfair. RaiderNation is built on a strong sense of diversity and tolerance. Or, that is what some profess it to be. The reaction the Rooney rule issue borders on the simple-minded from some allegedly smart people.
In essence, the announcement of the intentions with Gruden is the problem. If the timing of the announcement occurred after Jack Del Rio’s firing, the firestorm would have dissipated already. To the outside, a succession plan with Gruden as the target was in place all along. Whether that is fact or not, the perception remains, that is the case. The Raiders need to address these questions with honesty and integrity.