Emmitt Smith talks minority hiring in NFL, but says ‘true work’ begins after Super Bowl

LOS ANGELES – Super Bowl 56 has become a complicated place, and Emmitt Smith found himself in the middle of it Friday.

He said he considers the NFL’s commitment to hiring minority head coaches “a bunch of lip service’’ until he sees concrete changes.

Smith, the Hall of Fame running back who starred for the Dallas Cowboys, said once the NFL creates a pathway that leads to success for minorities in the head coaching ranks, ownership ranks and addresses overall Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) issues, “then I’ll tell you they’re really serious.’’

During the same conversation, Smith said he was looking forward to attending the NFL Alumni Legends Party Friday sponsored by USA TODAY NETWORK Ventures.

One moment, Smith was discussing former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores recently filing a proposed class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams, alleging racial discrimination by the league’s teams in hiring practices.

Not long after, he was talking about looking forward to seeing Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who will host the Legends party featuring rapper Flo Rida and DJ Kim Lee in Hollywood.

Emmitt Smith said he wants to see concrete changes in the NFL’s commitment to hiring minority head coaches.

And, of course, there is the game, with the Los Angeles Rams to play the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

“People should enjoy this moment,’’ Smith said. “Now, once this moment is over with, that’s when the true work begins.’’

The work, Smith said, should begin with looking at which consultants the NFL has used when examining issues regarding the hiring of minority head coaches and other DEI issues. He said he thinks the NFL should take better advantage of former players like himself to gain insight into the existing problems.

The 32-team league has five minority head coaches. Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Lovie Smith, recently hired by the Houston Texans, are Black and Mike McDaniel, recently hired by the Miami Dolphins, is multiracial. The Washington Commanders‘ Ron Rivera is the only Latino head coach in the NFL, and the New York Jets‘ Robert Saleh is Arab American.

Questions should be asked to better understand the access Black head coaches have to the resources and the larger community of NFL coaches, Smith said.

“How often has (Bill) Belichick flown down to the Keys to visit with Jimmy Johnson?’’ he said. “How often has Anthony Lynn or Mike Tomlin or (other Black coaches) been invited to boat trips to have conversations about things like that? Or do they even feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call someone like that? And will someone like that share information with them?

“Those are the questions people should be asking.’’

But those questions have not stopped the festivities in Los Angeles, where the Super Bowl has returned for the first time in 29 years. And selecting Gronkowski as the host for the Legends party was an easy choice, said Jason Taylor, President of USA TODAY NETWORK Ventures.

“There’s no more logical ambassador for the party side of the NFL,’’ Taylor said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Emmitt Smith: ‘True work’ on minority hiring can begin after Super Bowl


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