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22 November 2012

Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL

The story of a successful campaign for racial equality in the employment practices at the top level of US football -- and the crucial role played by two lawyers

Plenty of black players, but historically not many black coaches Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock.com

Published by: Oxford University Press
Authors: Jeremi Duru
December 2012 P/B £12.99
ISBN: 0199736006

Black players in the US professional football league have achieved great success on the pitch, but the role of head coach was out of reach for most until recently.
However, in 2007, the league reached an important milestone -- for the first time both sides battling for the Super Bowl trophy had black head coaches.
The breakthrough can be attributed to the work of a determined group that aimed to expand opportunities and make inroads into what had almost exclusively been the territory of white coaches – an unfortunate by-product of the NFL's old-boy network and lingering racist stereotypes of intellectual inferiority.
In Advancing the Ball, Jeremi Duru chronicles the career of John Wooten – a former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman. Mr Wooten began some of the earliest work towards modernising coach hiring practices, and gained real momentum when lawyers Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran – the latter renowned for defending another black football star, OJ Simpson -- became involved.
The three were catalysts in convincing the league to enact the ‘Rooney Rule’ in 2003, which stipulates that every team must interview at least one ethnic minority candidate when recruiting a head coach. In doing so, they spurred a movement that would substantially impact the football league and, potentially, the nation.
Advancing the Ball provides a unique view into how a few committed individuals changed one of America’s most popular sports, and also includes an impassioned foreword by coach Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts and the first black coach to win the Super Bowl when the Colts took the top prize in 2007.

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