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Detroit Lions tackle NFL’s big diversity problem

Right now, the Detroit Lions are on the right side of a sad history. That history is regarding lack of diversity.

Today, roughly 70% of the league’s players are Black, yet less than 10% of its coaches are. For years, this issue has been the league’s black-eye. 

It’s something Lions’ owner Sheila Ford-Hamp recognizes. Also, to her credit, it’s something she has addressed within her team. 

During Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, Ford-Hamp faced a difficult question on this subject. During the presser, a question arose regarding Rod Graves’ comments on the lack of diversity among NFL head coaches. Graves is the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s (FPA) executive director. The FPA is a 501 (c) (3) who advocates hiring and promoting minority candidates in coaching and front executive positions.

“Well, I can’t really comment on what other teams have done or not done. When you’re looking for a coach, you’re looking for the best candidates or the best fit for your organization”, said Ford-Hamp.

“[I think] everyone goes in colorblind, honestly. I do think the league, and I think everyone’s aware, can do a better job of creating a pipeline and teaching and developing and working with diverse candidates. I think it’s something the league can do a lot better at. Everyone’s aware of it and trying hard. It is kind of what it is right now.”

Of the 32 NFL head coach positions, there are only three Black head coaches. They are Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Brian Flores (Dolphins), and David Culley (Texans). Even adding minority head coaches such as Ron Rivera (Washington) and Robert Saleh (Jets) don’t improve the statistics much. Adding them increases the numbers a notch below 20% of minority head coaches employed. Along with that, less than 13% of the offensive and defensive coordinators are men of color. 

So, where do the Lions fit into this discussion?

Well, they caught a ton of flack from many national sports show recently. Mainly, the criticism came from hiring Campbell instead of Eric Beiniemy. However, recent history shows that the Lions are more progressive than those shows would like people to think.

The Lions have promoted and hired Black men as general managers several times in the two decades.

The Detroit Lions have shown a history of having no issue promoting or hiring Black men into leadership positions. Of their last four GMs, three of them are African American. First, there is Martin Mayhew. 

Mayhew served as the Lions’ GM from 2008-2015. Before that, he was the Senior Director of Football Administration and the Senior VP & Assistant GM under then-GM Matt Millen. Mayhew spent 15 years in the Lions’ front office as a high-ranking official, receiving several promotions along the way. After the Lions’ relieved Mayhew of his duties in November 2015, Sheldon White, another man of color, took over as interim GM for the season’s remainder. 

Last but not least, there’s Brad Holmes.

The Lions hired Holmes last month to replace Bob Quinn. Holmes joins the Lions after spending nearly two decades working in the LA Rams scouting department. Many of Holmes’ peers, including Rams’ GM Les Snead, rave about his intelligence, draft board preparation, and attention to detail. 

Those qualities are the reasons Lions’ executive Mike Disner advocated for Holmes’ hiring. 

Unfortunately, shows such as FS1’s Undisputed and ESPN’s First Take blatantly ignored this. It was a disservice to the conversation regarding minority candidates in leaderships. Additionally, it was a bit premature in the Lions’ case.

Over the last two weeks, the Lions have created one of the NFL’s most diverse front offices and coaching staffs.

For one week, national sports media tried to make the Detroit Lions the scapegoat for the NFL’s lack of diversity among NFL head coaches. It was as if they intentionally for Jim Caldwell was the Lions’ head coach for four seasons before Matt Patricia. 

Additionally, as mentioned above, it was a bit premature.

Since hiring Dan Campbell as head coach, the Lions have created one of the NFL’s most diverse coaching staff. It darn near rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Right now, the Lions have a Black offensive coordinator (Anthony Lynn) and Black defensive coordinator (Aaron Glenn). Along with that, they have a Black defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator (Aubrey Pleasant), and a Black assistant head coach/running backs coach (Duce Staley).

Also reports are surfacing that the Lions are looking at Pittsburgh Steelers legends Hines Ward for a position as well. 

So what’s the point of all of this?

Too many NFL owners and executives give lip service about the NFL’s lack of diversity in executive and coaching positions.

The Lions’ recent history shows that’s not the case with them. They’ve proven if feel you are the person for the job, they’ll bring you into the fold. And it’s regardless of your skin color. While they may not have a history of hiring winners, they showcase a history of being fair. 

So the next time there is a discussion about NFL teams not creating a diverse dynamic, defend the Detroit Lions. They have put forth some serious effort to change the stigma. 

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