Ed Hervey says CFL doesn’t need ‘Rooney Rule’ to promote diversity

B.C. Lions general manager Ed Hervey says the CFL doesn’t require a “Rooney Rule” in order to put African Americans into positions of football leadership.

As Hervey introduced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday, they were asked if there was any significance to a black general manager hiring a black head coach.

Claybrooks, one of three black head coaches hired by CFL teams in the last week – Hamilton’s Orlondo Steinauer and Toronto’s Corey Chamblin are the others – said no.

“I’m blessed to be an African American and I’m proud of that and I’m proud to be a head coach but I feel the reason I’m a head coach is because I’m the best man for the job. I think Ed would have hired me if I was purple if I was the best man for the job,” Claybrooks said. “I guess it’s kind of cool for me to be an African American but I didn’t look at it that way. I wasn’t raised to see colour anyway, I was raised that you work hard, you put your nose down and you grind and that’s how success happens. That’s the message we’re going to preach.”

In addition to giving Claybrook’s his inaugural head coaching opportunity, Hervey gave two other veteran coordinators their first shot at a top job while running the show in Edmonton. Both Jason Maas and Chris Jones, with whom Hervey won a Grey Cup with in 2015, are white.

“I don’t see colour. My hiring resume speaks for itself. I feel like every time I made a hire, I chose the best candidates for our team, the best candidate for our situation. I didn’t look at it and say ‘oh, this year I have to go hiring African American to check some mark on my Tic Tac Toe board,'” Hervey said. “DeVone was the number one candidate, make no mistake about it. This was clear across the board. He’s right: whether he’s black, white, Chinese – I really didn’t care. To me, it’s about the best fit. I’d like to believe that I’ve always been fair to the process of hiring and I’ve never looked one way, whether it’s black or white.”

Throughout its history, the CFL has been at the forefront of racial integration in football. Willie Wood of the Toronto Argonauts became the league’s first black head coach in 1980, nine years before Art Shell would take over the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. In 1999, the Saskatchewan Roughriders made Roy Shivers the first black general manager in football.

Micheal “Pinball” Clemons, Danny Barrett and Kavis Reed have all held head coaching or upper management roles while Chamblin’s stint with the Argos is his second after spending five years with the Riders.

The NFL, meanwhile, instituted the “Rooney Rule” in 2003 that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs after a number of high-profile black candidates were consistently passed over.

“We don’t have or require a Rooney Rule in our league, we don’t need that here because we’ve always done a great job of selecting the best candidates regardless of their skin colour,” Hervey said.

“DeVone was the number one candidate according to everyone and we were fortunate to get him, not because he was the number one candidate but when you have the chance to speak with him, to see why he was the number one candidate, it wasn’t just smoke being blown there was actual substance to the ranking, and substance to the person.”

If Hervey wasn’t taking race into consideration, he certainly wasn’t going to incorporate Claybrook’s fashion choices into his decision-making. The sideways hat and the shorts – staples of Claybrook’s wardrobe – are staying.

“I didn’t hire the hat. I hired the man in the hat. I wear my hat sideways sometimes. We’re not going to be judged by what we wear, we’re going to be judged by how we perform. And that’s what’s good about this league: you have coaches wearing shorts, your coach is wearing slacks – the only thing I haven’t seen on the sidelines is a suit. But this is the CFL where we get to be ourselves.”

Claybrooks, who recently had a significant health scare and has been diagnosed as a diabetic says the shorts may go by the wayside in cold weather – mom’s orders – but the hat is the hat.

“The hat will still be the same, you can get that question out of the way early,” he said. “The best part of it is, if you’re really worried about how my hat looks, you’re not worried about what’s under the hat and then I got you. So that’s fine by me.”

Must Read