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Monday, September 30
Updated: October 2, 7:03 PM ET
Cochran says black coaches held to different standard

Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. released a report Monday that criticizes the NFL's hiring practice involving black head coaches, and threatened to sue the league if it does not adhere to suggestions to remedy the situation.

The report, called "Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities,'' was compiled by the Washington law firm of Mehri & Skalet.

It addresses the league's hiring and firing of minority coaches, using statistical information compiled over the last 15 years.

Calls to the NFL on Monday night were not immediately returned.

Dr. Janice Madden, a labor economist, determined that black coaches averaged 1.1 more wins per season than white coaches and led their teams to the playoffs 67 percent of the time compared with 39 percent of the time for white coaches.

But Cochran noted there have been only five black head coaches since 1986 -- Art Shell, Dennis Green, Tony Dungy, Ray Rhodes and Herman Edwards. Only Indianapolis' Dungy and Edwards of the New York Jets are currently employed as head coaches.

"Black coaches are being held to a higher standard,'' Cochran said at a news conference. "Now is the time for the NFL to step up and make a change.''

To stimulate the hiring of African-Americans as head coaches, Cochran proposed that commissioner Paul Tagliabue "reward at least one team each year for developing a diverse front office'' with a draft pick.

He also asked the NFL to require team owners to include "diverse racial groups'' when interviewing candidates for coaching positions. According to the report, "owners can choose to opt out of this requirement ... but to do so they must forfeit a draft pick.''

Cochran suggested teams surrender a first-round pick for refusing to interview minorities for head coaching jobs, and a third-round pick for not interviewing minorities for assistant head coach or coordinator.

The creators of the report plan to talk to Tagliabue about their proposal in the next few days. Cochran said he is prepared to take legal action.

"We can litigate this. We can bring a lawsuit,'' Cochran said. "I think the NFL is reasonable. They understand that this can end up in the courts, and they'd rather not see that happen. But let's see if we can have a dialogue. You only litigate after you've done everything you can to negotiate.''

Cyrus Mehri, whose name is under Cochran's on the report, served as counsel in two of the largest race discrimination cases in history, involving Texaco and Coca-Cola.

"We're asking for a fair opportunity to compete,'' Mehri said.

Cochran said he doesn't want to bully the NFL or make money on the deal.

"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.

Mehri said black coaches have less of a chance to retain their job than their white counterparts.

"One bad year and you're out,'' he said. "There seems to be a lack of patience as far as black coaches are concerned.''

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