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Friday, July 25
Millen fined for not interviewing minority candidates

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Detroit Lions president Matt Millen was fined $200,000 by the NFL on Friday for not interviewing any minority candidates before hiring coach Steve Mariucci.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent a letter to Millen informing him of the fine.

After coach Marty Mornhinweg was fired by the Lions in January, Mariucci was the only person interviewed for the job. The team said five minority candidates turned down interviews because it appeared inevitable Mariucci would be hired.

"While certain of the difficulties that you encountered in seeking to schedule interviews with minority candidates were beyond your control, you did not take sufficient steps to satisfy the commitment that you had made,'' Tagliabue wrote.

Tagliabue also has said that future failures to interview minority candidates for a head coaching opening could lead to fines of $500,000 or higher as "conduct detrimental'' to the NFL.

Spokesman Bill Keenist said the Lions "respectfully disagree'' with Friday's ruling but support initiatives to promote diversity on coaching staffs and in front offices.

The NFL has been trying for years to increase minority presence at its highest levels. The league intensified its attack on the problem after advocates announced last year they might sue if the NFL didn't hire more black coaches.

League owners agreed in principle in December that any team seeking to hire a head coach would interview at least one minority candidate. The exception would be when a team makes a commitment to promote one of its assistants.

At the time of Mariucci's hiring in February, Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney criticized the Lions for failing to follow that new policy.

"The Detroit Lions gave mere lip service to the agreed-upon minority hiring process, treating it almost as if a nuisance to their hiring of Steve Mariucci,'' Upshaw said at the time. "The minority candidates were never given a fair chance to interview. In this case, the Lions' position is indefensible.''

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