Once again, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is pushing buttons. Last year, Smith drew media attention for his televised use of the n-word…twice. Now, Smith is attempting to stir the air with nobler talk. His case: black folk simply aren’t getting a fair shake when it comes to head coaching in the NFL.

At the start of this year, there were eight head coach vacancies in the League. And when said vacancies were filled, there wasn’t a single addition to the number of black head coaches, which now stands at three. In fact, the current number is a decrease from five, as a result of two terminations: Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel.

Smith is explicitly asking the question surely posed by many black NFL players and fans: “What’s happening here?” The Rooney Rule, which requires that at least one African-American be interviewed for head coach, was specifically crafted to reduce racial disparities. But in a sport clearly and visibly dominated by African-Americans – 2011 records show African-Americans account for 67% of total players –few blacks are selected to perform at a management level.

And the same proves true for upper management positions, from the team office to the NFL boardroom. Some say that this is merely a reflection of the fact that such positions require a different set of skills, in which African-Americans do not enjoy a majority stake.

We’re good enough to run the ball, but not good enough to run the business.

In light of recent scientific publications that are spotlighting the severe health risks tied to the sport, this disproportionate use of black men to do the “dirty work” raises many an eyebrow. Or does it?

On many sites, where the group discussion spills on for pages, descriptions of the NFL as performance-based are rampant. Black coaches that get jobs, or keep them, do so because they win. And the opposite holds true for black coaches who lose. After all, in a sport that generates billions of dollars, who would pass over an opportunity for increased revenue – through winning – even if it meant hiring a black coach?

What do you think, Clutchettes and Gents? Is this clear racism or is Smith playing the race card?

-J. Alexander

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