Under Armour | Leveling the Playing Field
Over 70% of players in the NFL are minorities, but this season (2021) only 15% of coaches are minorities. In College Football, roughly 65% of players are minorities and only 16% of coaches are minorities. There's no excuse for this lack of representation, and it's time for a significant change in the sport. The National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches and Under Armour are partnering together to make a more equitable sport.
I created all copy for this campaign which was picked up by Business Journals and shared by NFL star players, Jonathan Taylor and Justin Jefferson.
November 2021 | CW: Me | Work created at PRAYTELL
"Those in hiring positions are looking for something that's familiar. They want somebody who’s relatable to them. Often, that's not a minority. So from the start, we're challenged to open people's hearts and minds. We have to convince them to choose something different — that, at least, looks different.
People ask me about the desires of a minority coach. They’re the same as the desires of any coach. We aspire to greatness. Additionally, a minority coach wants to provide opportunities for others in that same space. I want to make the road to head coaching easier for other people of color. They deserve the opportunity to chase their dreams.
Minorities in America have faced inequities and challenges since the beginning of time. Sports in this country have been a great equalizer. But why doesn't the equity seen on the playing field extend to positions of power?
I got into coaching because of my love for the game of football. When I was growing up, my coaches were the stand-up guys in the community. They were the guys who I aspired to be like. In turn, I want my love of the game to inspire the next generation."
Mike Tomlin, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers
"One of the biggest roadblocks I see is minority coaches assigned as recruiters. They’re not given credit for player development or on-field schematic strengths. This is extremely challenging at the collegiate level. There, a big part of the job is recruiting a higher percentage of minority athletes. Mostly white coaching staff will lean on minority coaches to relate to families of color. Young minority coaches must be more than recruiting tools. They deserve appreciation for their true coaching abilities.
Diversity and representation in high-profile coaching positions are very important. It wasn't until I worked under an offensive coordinator of color that I saw my potential to climb the coaching ladder.
NCMFC is inspiring belief and hope for a whole new generation of minority coaches. They're ready to rise to the occasion. They just need the chance. The backing of a major corporation like Under Armour will amplify the NCMFC’s impact.
My greatest moments as a coach are not wins or accolades. They’re the relationships I have with my players and the joy I receive from them achieving their goals."
Josh Gattis, Offensive Coordinator at The University of Michigan
"My mentor, Coach Dabo Swinney, leads with love, passion, accountability, and discipline. He values his players as people first. He prioritizes character development over football skills. He taught me so much. I aim to do the same — especially for minorities in football.
Representation is so important. A living and breathing example is far more impactful than words on a page. Head coaches and coordinators need to be held accountable. Often they fail to provide their minority assistants with true opportunities to develop.
There’s a stereotype that minority coaches are only good for recruiting and managing student-athletes. This bias leads to many minority coaches landing coaching positions that don’t involve a high level of critical thinking. But education and accountability can bring change. NCMFC is bringing visibility to quality candidates. We're inspiring a younger generation of minority coaches. We're preparing them as qualified candidates for the most sought-after head coaching positions."
Tony Elliott, Offensive Coordinator at Clemson University
"It’s extremely important to see the success of people who look like us. You need to see it to realize your full potential for advancement. I want to open opportunities for minority coaches to progress to leadership positions. Too often, we’re pigeonholed. We just want the opportunity to be inclusive and be given the same opportunities as everyone else is afforded.
The National Coalition for Minority Football Coaches is doing a phenomenal job in heightening awareness of the lack of progress football has had, in terms of diversity, up until now. The Coalition is preparing minority coaches. We're positioning them for success and improving their skills for the hiring process. There’s already been such exceptional work in terms of promotion thus far. We’re making it increasingly difficult for non-minorities to overlook the need for inclusion."
Chris Beatty, Wide Receivers Coach of The Los Angeles Chargers
CHANGING THE GAME
How Under Armour’s partnership with the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches is making a more equitable sport
Most NFL players are Black.
There are only three Black head coaches.
Three. This is not due to a lack of job vacancies. There were eight head coach vacancies in the last hiring period. Minority coaches are just not afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts.
The exclusion of minority coaches is a systemic issue. There are countless societal roadblocks that underrepresented people face. When most of the people doing the hiring and the interviewing are white, a coach’s Blackness makes their résumé look worse. Those with the ultimate say on hirings in the NFL are the team owners — only two are minorities and none are Black.
Representation matters and football is more than a game. It's a microcosm of America.
“There are so many qualified minority coaches out there that have the tools, the skillset, and the experience," explains University of Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley. “The more that the next generation sees the Mike Locksleys and the Mike Tomlins in head coaching positions, the more they see that they can do it. That, to me, is half the battle. They need to see it to believe that they can do it.”
Locksley realized the need for change. In June 2020, he established the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (NCMFC). The NCMFC prepares, promotes, and produces minority coaches at all levels.
“I'm a big believer in third-party validation,” continues Locksley. “It's hard for a qualified coach of color to stand in front of people and champion himself. The people that make hiring decisions tend to look for candidates that will validate them. You hear all the time, ‘It’s a pipeline issue. There aren’t enough qualified minority coaches.’ That’s not true. It's the job of the NCMFC to produce and promote great coaches.”
In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Under Armour stands alongside the NCMFC. Together, they're finding solutions to the equity problem within the ranks of football.
“Individually, we can make a difference,” says Sean Eggert, Under Armour’s SVP of Global Marketing. “Together, we can instill change.”
Under Armour’s work comes in the form of financial support, amplification, and a five-year commitment to the NCMFC. This echoes the brand's long-term efforts in equity and inclusion. A goal of the partnership is to provide the necessary resources for preparing minority coaches. In partnership, they will amplify the work and success of minority coaches, so once-marginalized coaches will remain top-of-mind for those hiring.
“Under Armour exists with a simple focus: make athletes better” explains Eggert. “At Under Armour, we strongly believe that sport is the ultimate unifier. In a locker room, different races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds all come together for one goal.”
For Coach Locksley, a partnership between the NCMFC and Under Armour is necessary for any long-term success.
“I couldn't find a better partner than Under Armour,” proclaims Locksley. “They’re helping us build something from the infant stage to something larger than life. Under Armour, itself was developed with the mindset of an underdog. They're diverse, high-energy, and never quit. These are some pivotal attributes that the NCMFC needs to grow.”
The partnership between Under Armour and the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches brings more diversity, equity, and inclusion to football. Together, they’re leveling the playing field. For good.