Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl Return Is Proof Affirmative Action Works

(Color Lines) Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is out to claim his second Super Bowl title in three years as his team prepares to square off against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. If the Steelers win, Tomlin will be the first African American to lead his team to two Super Bowls. Not bad for the 38-year-old coach nobody wanted to hire.

But Tomlin wouldn’t likely be roaming the sidelines if not for the Rooney Rule, which requires an NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview a candidate of color. Before the rule, few African Americans were granted interviews, let alone given head coaching jobs.

In 2002, the late Johnnie Cochran and fellow attorney Cyrus Mehri felt people of color, particularly African Americans, deserved more opportunities to lead teams. So Cochran and Mehri threatened to sue the NFL if it didn’t change its ways. “Our motives are driven not by personal desire or financial gain, but to correct what we see as a great inequity in America’s game,” Cochran said at the time. “Now is the time for the NFL to step up and make a change.”

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