Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio spoke regarding race relations in the NFL and his comments completely missed the mark. Fangio, who has coached in the league since 1986, has rightfully received backlash from players for his comments after he was asked about racism in the NFL in the aftermath of the senseless police killing of George Floyd.
Vic Fangio Missed the Mark With Comments on Racism in the NFL
True, Fangio has said that George Floyd’s murder while in police custody is a “societal issue that we all have to join in to correct.” But Fangio also said the following:
“I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal,” said Fangio. “We’re a league of meritocracy, you earn what you get, you get what you earn. I don’t see racism at all in the NFL, I don’t see discrimination in the NFL. We all live together, joined as one, for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we’d all be great.”
Why Fangio Is Wrong
Yes, each player and coach on an NFL team works towards the same goals, including making the playoffs, winning their division and advancing to and winning a Super Bowl. But, the experience of each player and coach while in the league (and afterwards) can vary simply because of the color of their skin.
Lack of Minority Coaches and General Managers
In 2018 there were only eight head coaches in the NFL who were not white. As the 2020 NFL season approaches, there are only four head coaches currently in the NFL who come from a minority background. This off-season there were five coaching vacancies and only one was filled by a person of color (Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic, was hired by the Washington Redskins. Of the past 20 NFL head coaching openings only three have gone to a minority. Only two of the 32 general manager positions in the league are currently held by a person of color. That disparity is why, this off-season, the NFL has worked to tweak the Rooney Rule.
Much of the NFL (about 70-75%) is made up of players who are not white. Why then is the system against people of color advancing after their playing days are over? So many people say “well, the most qualified candidate should get the job.” While that is absolutely correct, the issue is that minorities and people of color in the NFL are not getting the same opportunities as white people. That is racism.
Has Vic Fangio inexplicably forgotten about Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick peacefully protested police brutality against people of color back in 2016 by taking a knee during the National Anthem. Then Kaepernick was essentially blackballed and he has not played in the NFL since 2016. When he began protesting there were NFL fans everywhere calling for any athlete, including Kaepernick, to not be allowed to play unless they stood for the National Anthem. People wanted Kaepernick to stop protesting or at least do it on his “own time.” But what those people seem to not understand is that Kaepernick, and other athletes who took a knee during the National Anthem, were protesting a very important issue that is still relevant today and that Kaepernick protesting on his “own time” would not have driven the conversation nearly as much. Kaepernick took a stand against police brutality when the most eyes were on him.
Fangio did express the correct sentiment regarding the murder of George Floyd by saying:
“I was shocked, sad and angry when I saw what the policeman did to a handcuffed George Floyd on his stomach that led to his death,” Fangio said. “He should be punished to the full extent of the law of the crimes he was charged with in addition to being charged with treason for failing to uphold the badge and uniform he was entrusted with. It’s a societal issue that we all have to join in to correct.”
Vic Fangio is correct that the officer (Derek Chauvin) who murdered George Floyd should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but he missed the fact that the other three officers involved must be charged and face serious consequences as well for their part in Floyd’s death.
The Broncos head coach also missed the fact, or doesn’t want to see, that racism is alive in the NFL. There is very clearly institutional and systemic racism in this country. The NFL is no different and it needs to be eradicated. Action must continue to be taken until equality is reached.