He’s no token hire

By Dr. Boyce Watkins, BASN Contributor
Updated: January 31, 2011

NEW YORK (BASN) — Anyone watching with pride as the Pittsburgh Steelers fought their way to yet another Super Bowl likely heard a few interesting facts about the general on the field, Mike Tomlin. Tomlin, at the age of 38, is the youngest head coach to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. Before that, he was the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. He does this while sitting at the helm of a storied franchise that has more Super Bowl wins than any team in NFL history. In other words, the man is a serious beast. Tomlin’s feats are not just impressive for a black coach, they stand above nearly any coach in NFL history. It is equally ironic that he is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose owner was responsible for opening the door for black coaches to get a chance in the league. Steelers owner Dan Rooney helped create the Rooney rule, requiring NFL teams to interview African Americans for head coaching and senior administrative positions. The NFL must be given tremendous credit for creating avenues for diversity within its ranks. The contributions of African American athletes on the field are undeniable, but historical oppression of people of color has kept doors shut when they should have been opened.

The NCAA should also consider its own version of the Rooney rule given the dearth of black representation in the ranks of college football coaching. In fact, the economic exploitation being committed by the NCAA is egregious, given that billions are earned on the backs of poor African American families, with the bulk of that wealth going to a predominantly white group of university coaches and administrators who sign multimillion-dollar contracts and then put professional-level pressure on young men who are trying to be students at the same time. Tomlin’s achievements on the field and off match the gritty style of play of the Steelers and the tough-minded fans of Pittsburgh.

Additionally, the ownership of the Steelers organization has truly presented itself as a beacon of hope in a world that must find ways to honestly confront the crippling effects of racial inequality. I applaud Tomlin, the Steelers organization and the incredibly loyal fans for their amazing achievements. If every organization in America were run like the Pittsburgh Steelers, our nation would be able to heal from the damage that was caused by racism.