Sunday, January 16, 2011

N. Jeremi Duru's Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL

Our colleague and friend Jeremi Duru, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law, is the author of an outstanding and timely new book: Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (with forward by Tony Dungy).

Here is the description:
Two days before Super Bowl XLI in 2007, the game's two opposing head coaches posed with the trophy one of them would hoist after the contest. It was a fairly unremarkable event, except that both coaches were African American--a fact that was as much of a story as the game itself.

As Jeremi Duru reveals in Advancing the Ball, this unique milestone resulted from the work of a determined group of people whose struggles to expand head coaching opportunities for African Americans ultimately changed the National Football League. Since the league's desegregation in 1946, opportunities had grown plentiful for African Americans as players but not as head coaches--the byproduct of the NFL's old-boy network and lingering stereotypes of blacks' intellectual inferiority. Although Major League Baseball and the NBA had, over the years, made progress in this regard, the NFL's head coaches were almost exclusively white up until the mid-1990s.

Advancing the Ball chronicles the campaign of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman John Wooten to right this wrong and undo decades of discriminatory head coach hiring practices--an initiative that finally bore fruit when he joined forces with attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran. Together with a few allies, the triumvirate galvanized the NFL's African American assistant coaches to stand together for equal opportunity and convinced the league to enact the "Rooney Rule," which stipulates that every team must interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach. In doing so, they spurred a movement that would substantially impact the NFL and, potentially, the nation.

Featuring an impassioned foreword by Coach Tony Dungy, Advancing the Ball offers an eye-opening, first-hand look at how a few committed individuals initiated a sea change in America's most popular sport and added an extraordinary new chapter to the civil rights story.
I had the chance to review Jeremi's book, and was extremely impressed. My comments, along those of several others, are on the book cover:
"My personal journey of success would have been much more difficult if not for the sacrifices of many that blazed my trail. The Fritz Pollard Alliance created a highway for expanded opportunities for African Americans, which are chronicled in this fascinating and historic book."--Warren Moon, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback

"An incredibly interesting and enlightening read. This book should be required reading for any level of sports enthusiast, as it explains so much about the complex intersection of sport and race. Without knowing this story, you simply cannot understand the evolution of sport over the past 50 years."--Woodie Dixon, Jr., General Counsel to the Pac-10 Conference and former General Counsel to the Kansas City Chiefs

"Advancing the Ball provides a hopeful message, with engaging discussion of how policies can be instituted to correct patterns of unfairness and injustice."--Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated Legal Analyst, and Director of the Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute

"This excellent book is a must for fans of football and other sports, as well as for those with a passion for racial justice. Professor Duru offers us a thoughtful and engaging perspective on the evolution of equal treatment in professional football."--Paul C. Weiler, Professor, Harvard Law School, and Creator of Harvard's Sports and the Law
Advancing The Ball can be purchased on Amazon and Oxford University Press's website. Whether you agree or disagree with book, you'll find it to be a provocative and thoughtful read.