Thursday, January 23, 2003

Civil rights lawyers applaud Bengals' search

Brown did it right, Cochran, Mehri say

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SAN DIEGO - The Bengals' head coaching interview process was hailed Wednesday as exemplary in meeting NFL minority hiring guidelines."We believe the Bengals have created a superb model for carrying out (a coaching search)," civil rights attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. said Wednesday.

Lewis, hired Jan.14, is one of three African-American coaches in the league and the eighth in NFL history.

The NFL's minority hiring plan, announced Dec.20 by a committee headed by Steelers president Dan Rooney, calls for teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach.

The Bengals interviewed five candidates, two of whom are African-Americans.

Bengals president Mike Brown declined to comment Wednesday.

Cochran and fellow attorney Cyrus Mehri have worked with the NFL to improve opportunities for minority coaches.

Tagliabue created a league workplace diversity committee Oct.31 and appointed Rooney as chair.

While praising the Bengals, Cochran and Mehri criticized coaching searches conducted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys.

They said Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver violated the Rooney plan by interviewing just one candidate, Jack Del Rio, before hiring Del Rio last week.

They also said Dallas owner Jerry Jones violated the spirit of the plan by interviewing Bill Parcells - whom he hired Jan.2 - in person and interviewing former Vikings coach Dennis Green by phone.

"There will be no compromise on face-to-face interviews," Mehri said.

Mehri and Cochran were joined at the news conference by former NFL stars Warren Moon and Kellen Winslow, both of whom are African-American.

"We're not talking about quotas or affirmative action," said Winslow. "We're talking about equal opportunity."

The 49ers head-coaching job, vacant since the firing of Steve Mariucci on Jan. 15, is the only job open in the league.

"We hope San Francisco will follow the process like Cincinnati," Mehri said.


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