Tagliabue On Coronavirus: Everyone Is In Combat

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue weighed in on the coronavirus pandemic and the Rooney Rule, among other topics

Tiki and Tierney
May 20, 2020 - 5:49 pm
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From the coronavirus pandemic to the Rooney Rule, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had no shortage of issues to tackle. Well, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue dropped by CBS Sports Radio to provide some perspective on these topics.

Whatever the NFL decides regarding the pandemic, it will need to get everyone on board. Don’t think that’ll be a problem? Well, talk to MLB about that.

“That’s the challenge,” Tagliabue said on Tiki & Tierney. “You got a lot of constituents in sports. In many collective-bargaining situations, there’s one or two employers. Here you got 32 different employers. Sometimes what’s good for one group is terrible for another. . . . It takes time and a little bit of luck, and it takes a little bit of risk-taking, too. Each side has got to take some risks.”

Tagliabue, who served as commissioner from 1989 to 2006, believes the coronavirus pandemic is the toughest challenge any commissioner has had to face.

“I can’t think of one [more difficult],” he said. “I can’t think of one for the NFL, and I can’t think of one for the nation. I’ve been listening to historians talk about this issue and people who are familiar with the pandemic in 1918 . . . but one historian said that this is the first time in our nation’s history where every citizen has been, in effect, in combat. . . . Here, everyone is a direct potential target of this combat with this virus. That’s unprecedented. We’ve never had a situation where everyone had to be locked down, as we’re doing right now. To me, I think the historians who are saying this is unprecedented got it right.”

As for the Rooney Rule, NFL owners were considering a proposal that would have offered draft-based incentives for teams to hire minority head coaches and general managers. Ultimately, the owners shelved that proposal but made other changes to the rule.

Tagliabue believes the Rooney Rule has come a long way in the last 17 years.

“I think there’s a big difference between today and 2003,” he said. “Seventeen of the 32 clubs have had African-American head coaches. When I became commissioner, there were none in 1989. Today you have 17 teams who have hired African-American coaches, and Carolina and Washington have had Ron Rivera. Al Davis had Tom Flores. So roughly two-thirds of the league have had [minority] coaches. Six or seven of the teams have had two African-American coaches. So whatever the issues are today, they’re different from what they were in 2003. You can’t just go back and say, ‘This is what we did then. This is what we have to do now.’ Which is why I think it’s so important that the competition committee and the diversity committee and the commissioner are all working on this together.”