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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses diversity efforts, state of officiating ahead of Super Bowl LVII

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PHOENIX — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed a number of key league issues — including diversity efforts, officiating and player health and safety — during his news conference on Wednesday ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Goodell told reporters that the league is “pleased to see progress” in its efforts to increase diversity at the coaching and executive level, but that “we always look to see how can we do better.”

Goodell credited the implementation of the NFL coach and front office accelerator program this past year as something that helped introduce teams to a more diverse candidate pool, telling reporters that the Tennessee Titans were introduced to their new general manager, Ran Carthon, during December’s event.

The Titans hired Carthon, previously the 49ers’ director of player development, in January. Carthon, who is Black, is one of two minority GM or head coach candidates hired during this year’s cycle thus far. The Houston Texans hired 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who is Black, as their new head coach on Jan. 31.

“We’re gonna continue [the accelerator program],” Goodell said. “Our commitment’s strong to that. But that’s just one. We had a number of other programs that we’ve put in that I think are going to produce long-term results. Now we all want short-term results, but it’s important to have it be sustainable for the future, and we believe diversity makes us stronger. It’s about attracting the best talent and giving them the best opportunity to be successful. To me, that’s at the core of what we do. We want the changes to be really fundamental and sound and sustainable.”

There were two open GM positions — the Cardinals hired Monti Ossenfort, who is white — and five open head-coaching spots during the 2023 hiring cycle. The Panthers and Broncos hired two white candidates (Frank Reich and Sean Payton, respectively), while the Cardinals and Colts have yet to fill their open positions. Goodell was asked what measures can be made to the accelerator program to help coaching candidates in particular.

“One is when we did this it was in May, and we did the second accelerator in December,” Goodell said. “It was difficult to get our coaches to participate in December. We didn’t even ask because we know that their focus is on the season. … I think when we have this offseason, hopefully, we can schedule better and make sure the coaches have the opportunity to participate in that.”

Goodell continued: “I also think there was probably some reluctance that ‘is this really going to be beneficial?’ I think now when coaches and others see that it has produced results already, I think they’re going to be anxious to participate, and I think that will be good for our clubs, who loved the experience. In implementing any program, you never know what the reaction is. I was overwhelmed with the reaction from our clubs. They embraced it. They thought it was terrific. The conversations were great — I participated in many of them. It’s a program that has a great deal of potential.”

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