History Is Finally Made, But Will This Be The Last Time We See It?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 6, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — “Tony Dungy, you have just won Super Bowl XLI. So what are you going to do next?” “I’m going to reach back and help another African American coach get to where I am today.” That would be one heck of a Disney commercial wouldn’t it? More importantly that would be one heck of a way to honor the numerous African American coaches who came before him. In his own way, Dungy has done just that be acknowledging the milestone that was before him.

But what can you expect from a man who embodies true humility and true understanding of what it means to be a representative of your faith? Expect for him to continue doing what he is doing on the coaching realm; he is going to help other African Americans who want to become head coaches.

So with Dungy making history on the fourth day of Black History Month, will this be the last time we ever see an African American coach in the NFL’s biggest spectacular?

The argument is definitely there and has been for two weeks. What’s the argument? Why it’s whether the NFL is racist or not when it comes to hiring African American coaches.

But here’s the underlying question that nobody wants to admit to the public. That question is this: do African Americans want to become head coaches in the NFL?

Many in the Black community dismiss this question because it is so much easier to point fingers at the league. It’s bigger, has gobs of money and seems to be about exploitation more than and inclusion.

Some in the community might even say, “Just look at how the league did Reggie (Fowler). If they don’t want a black owner, you think they are going to accept a black head coach?”

The talk that permeates such circles has been there for years but it may be time for the Black community to realize that we are also our own worst enemies in a lot of areas and that includes the progression of African American coaches moving on to the highest level. In some regards, we are not pushing hard enough to get the opportunities that some feel they richly deserve.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Central Florida’s DeVoss Sports Institute and Dr. Richard Lapchick, it was verified that there were 156 Black assistant coaches in the league during the 2005 season and there were seven head coaches.

In the college ranks, the numbers for a head coach and or assistant are dismal.

Sounds depressing doesn’t it? Well anything that is trailblazing is going to be arduous and not for the faint of heart. Yet when it comes to how the Black community prevails and overcomes obstacles, this is nothing new.

What is new however is the premise of showing thousands of impressionable youngsters that there are other dreams besides what is shown on the video channel.

Dungy’s accomplishment and his success at being a mentor should catapult a cause that being a Black coach at some level is a worthy ambition. Think of it like our own version of “L.A. Law”.

When that show came out and hit the air, there was an insurgence of young students wanting to become a lawyer and work in a big law firm. For the Black community, the mere fact that an African American has won the Super Bowl and that his friend and mentee was coaching against him should be an inspiration of the same magnitude.

Let’s hope that what we saw on Sunday is just the beginning of just another piece of armor in ‘leveling the playing field’ in sports on the administrative/front office end of things.

Go to fullsize image Upshaw, Vincent has irked the ‘dinosaurs’.

The ugly story about former NFL players who are disabled not being able to get their disability checks has reared up and once again NFLPA’s Gene Upshaw and Troy Vincent are railing against these former gridiron players as if they are nothing more than a pariah to their happy landscape.

These two guys simply don’t get it and they don’t want to get it. They don’t get it because one doesn’t seem to care about his fallen comrades and the other has no clue what it is to have played at a time when a doctor gave you aspirin for a concussion or told you to take this shot to ease the pain.

For the hundreds of guys who made the NFL what it is today, they simply do not get any love from Vincent or Upshaw.

Well that may now become a huge mistake on their part. It seems that the very fact that the NFL and the NFLPA are trying to ‘wish’ this problem away has riled up the competitive juices of a lot of retired players and that may be a fight that Upshaw and Vincent don’t want to take on.

I had the privilege of speaking to one such angry hornet of a retired player this past Sunday, Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure. He called me on Sunday to thank me for writing an article about how the media needs to keep this story on the front burner but we also talked about the statements that Vincent and Upshaw made.

“Greg, they have awakened the competitive juices of a lot of former players,” DeLamielleure told me over the phone.

The former Buffalo Bill is an angry former player and you can’t blame him. While he may be doing pretty well by most standards, it’s the fact that he hasn’t forgotten his former teammates and ‘brethren’ who played during the same time.

To show how much he cares about those fallen men, DeLamielluere donated the very bracelet that O.J. Simpson gave his linemen when he rushed 2,003 yards in 1973 to the Gridiron Great Assistance Fund that was started by former Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer.

That’s deep folks; it’s really deep. And when you have many Hall of Famers, many of them in the destitute situations that are described by numerous articles, there seems to be uproar from that group that wants to not just shout obscenities at a union that doesn’t care about them; they want to change the complete landscape.

Well maybe having some 200+ Hall of Fame members railing against you is what the NFLPA needs. Maybe it is time that the HOF fraternity band together and start letting the world know just how they are treated by a union that is making almost billions off of the sweat, grit and determination of guys like Herb Adderley, Willie Wood, and others.

Maybe it’s good that these former players are now fighting mad about how they are being treated and respected by a union that has no inclination the importance of the ‘old timers’. Maybe it is time for the ‘old timers’ to kick a little butt. DeLamielleure made a very poignant observation to me and I do think it’s appropriate in it’s context.

He equated the civil rights movement for African Americans to what the retired players are going through right now. In principle, Joey D. isn’t too far off the mark. Civil rights isn’t just about riding on a darn bus or being able to eat at a restaurant. It was and still is about economic power.

Right now, the union and league have the power and the retired players, no matter when they retired, do not. And for a league that owes these guys so much, they need to be a little more grateful and definitely a lot more giving to a group of men who literally gave their lives and bodies for guys like Vincent and others.