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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers And Diversity In The Upper Ranks Of An NFL Franchise


What does diversity in the upper ranks of an NFL franchise look like? Well, after last night, it looks like a Super Bowl win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a more diverse coaching staff than almost any other team in the NFL - four Black coordinators, two women coaches. And that's very unusual for pro football. Coaches are overwhelmingly white and male, while 70% of the players are Black. Rod Graves is executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, which works to advance diversity in pro football.

Thanks for joining us.

ROD GRAVES: Hi, Ari. Thanks for having me on today.

SHAPIRO: How different does the Tampa staff look from other teams?

GRAVES: Well, quite a bit different. And a lot of credit goes to, obviously, Bruce Arians and the intention that he has had throughout his career to make diversity a priority. And I think we saw the evidence of what bringing along a diverse staff can do for an organization and particularly for a football team. So I commend them for taking the steps to do it and succeeding in the process.

SHAPIRO: Of course, Bruce Arians is the head coach in Tampa. How much work does it take? I mean, how deliberate and intentional did they have to be in hiring up a diverse staff?

GRAVES: Well, if you asked Bruce Arians, he'll simply say he just hired the best people for the job. And I think it's really just as easy as that. You know, diversity comes in all shapes and forms. And all people who are concerned about the issue are asking is that they be given a chance for a fair, open and competitive process to being hired. And when given that process, we find that diverse candidates can rise to the occasion. They can fit the job responsibilities and provide the leadership and vision that teams are looking for.

SHAPIRO: So explain why Tampa is such an outlier. I mean, four teams - Tampa, Arizona, Cleveland and Las Vegas - are responsible for about a third of all the Black and brown coaches and GMs hired in the last 30 years. How does something like that happen?

GRAVES: Well, it is a great question, Ari. And in my opinion, it's part of the issue surrounding the National Football League today. The league has been around for over a hundred years. It's a billion-dollar business. And yet we've got the stain of this problem staring us in the face year after year. And I think it's basically a result of there being a lack of focus and priority from owners on this particular topic.

SHAPIRO: Are there still people in power who believe that a diverse leadership team is going to disadvantage a franchise? And if so, is Tampa's Super Bowl win last night likely to change their thinking?

GRAVES: The victory last night should give teams and owners in particular something to think about with respect to how they structured their leadership teams and really look into not only what happens on the football field, Ari, but what happens on the business side. Most of our corporate portraits, particularly when you're talking about NFL teams, don't have much color in them. That certainly needs to be looked at today, given the fact that there are a lot of powerful representatives - excuse me - executives out there who are capable of filling in leadership roles.

SHAPIRO: Rod Graves is executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation.

Thanks for talking with us.

GRAVES: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.