League says minority hiring plan won't work

Thursday, October 31, 2002

NEW YORK -- The NFL insists it is committed to hiring more minorities, but it doesn't support a plan to use draft picks as an incentive for teams to consider black coaches.

"It's ridiculous. It would be a sham," Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said after a discussion at Wednesday's league meetings about the plan, proposed by attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran Jr.

Mehri's and Cochran's plan would reward teams that interview minority candidates for front-office and head coaching positions with extra draft choices and take picks away from teams that don't. Teams that hired minorities as coaches would be rewarded more handsomely.

The union must agree to any plan that adds draft picks, and Upshaw said it wouldn't.

"People would simply go out and interview African-Americans and hire a white coach and get an extra draft pick," said Upshaw, who is black and has been helping the league identify potential minority candidates for coaching jobs. "Everyone in the NFL knows what's going on. They have to keep widening the available pool of candidates."

Mehri said that while he was pleased with the tone of the meeting, he still believed in his plan.

"Draft choices are the currency of the NFL," he said. "That's the way to improve the situation. Our plan will get the job done."

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