What if corporate America adopted NFL's 'Rooney Rule'?

Dwayne Ballen

KAI RYSSDAL: Whether you're for the Colts or for the Bears or whether you don't much care either way the football season will be over on Sunday.

Players will get much of the attention during the Super Bowl. But it's the men on sidelines who've been in the spotlight this week.

Commentator Dwayne Ballen says the arrival of two black coaches on the NFL's biggest stage could have big implications.


DWAYNE BALLEN: Will Tony Dungy

and Lovie Smith

indirectly help more black men gain opportunities to run major corporations?

Stay with me on this. Football holds a special, romantic place in the American psyche. In particular, that of the male. In particular, that of the white male.

White males, for the most part, just happen to be the people that make the decisions on who sits in corporate boardrooms and at the head of companies.

Football coaches hold a revered status within this sub-group. The names of the legendary ones have taken on mythic standing: Lombardi, Rockne, Bryant, Halas.

They are viewed on the same level as great business and military leaders. The metaphors flow so easily. "Leading the troops into battle." They're often referred to as "Field Generals" by a gushing media.

They're believed to possess a special set of qualities. Visionary leadership. The ability to inspire others to greatness. A determination to succeed, regardless the odds. Traits usually found in successful CEOs.

If white males view Dungy and Smith through this prism, perhaps that will transfer to the corporate sector.

Certainly, if these men can successfully navigate an NFL team to the highest level, there must be a few more like them capable of running some the nation's major firms.

What if we combined this hopeful new open-mindness with a corporate America version of the "Rooney Rule"

? That's the NFL's mandate requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching vacancy.

It doesn't mean forcing an unqualified person into a position. It simply encourages them to consider all qualified candidates. It's a way of coaxing owners beyond their insular and elite world.

It widens the pool and gives those outside the traditional circles of power an opportunity to showcase their abilities. Think of it as an attempt to level the corporate playing field.

RYSSDAL: Television journalist Dwayne Ballen lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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