Should the NFL be under scrutiny for a recent incident that technically is racial discrimination? If you’re not following up, former New England Patriots player and assistant coach Eugene Chung of both the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles was recently told in a coaching job interview that he was, “not the right minority” they were looking for in quest for the NFL to be more inclusive and diverse among hiring minority candidates in the league.

What Actually Happened 

Chung, who is of Asian descent recently told his side of the story to Nicole Yang of the The Boston Globe who is also Asian.  What follows after this will shock readers. It was during a job interview with an unnamed NFL team. The interview then turned when the interviewer who shall not be named mentioned his race. Chung recalls the interviewer saying things like, “Well, you’re not really a minority”, and “you are not the right minority we were looking for.”

Chung’s Response

Chung took the comment personal and asked about the comment to the interviewer. He sat there shocked wondering why in this day and age, telling a minority that they aren’t the right minority that fits their description is a narrative. As a society, we are all supposed to be championing for a more equal and inclusive future and this comment takes a giant step backwards.

Despite this, Chung has no hate towards the NFL and says that he is grateful for the times he was a player and as a coach for both the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. As of current stages, the NFL is launching an investigation into the comments and are carefully reviewing to see if they are of racial discrimination. The league released the following statement:

NFL’s Thoughts

“We will review the matter. That comment is completely inappropriate and contrary to league values and workplace policies. The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all personnel in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

In 2003, the late Pittsburgh Steelers Owner Dan Rooney proposed a rule that would change the NFL landscape of hiring minorities in the Football Operations and Administration department. The, “Rooney” rule requires a team to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coach, a general manger, or other front office positions. It is considered a policy of “affirmative action”.

NFL Executive Vice President for Football Operations, Troy Vincent shared his thoughts on the comment and could not believe what he heard from that employee. Vincent, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills in the NFL, has worked hard with Commissioner Rodger Goodell to build on the progress the Rooney Rule has made for minority candidates. Now with a terrible and offensive comment like this, it feels as if the league has taken major steps in reverse. 

“It’s disturbing,” he said. “When you hear it, it tells you how much work we still have to do, how much education is needed for all of us.”

Vincent has talked with Chung and Dasha Smith, the NFL’s Executive Vice President and Chief Officer.  She will conduct an investigation into the matter.

“It’s not at all in line with our standards and what we stand for in the NFL,” said Smith.

Chung’s History in the NFL

Chung was drafted number 13-overall in the first round of the 1992 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. After his time in Foxborough, he would go on to play with 5 other different organizations. They include a one-year stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars in their inaugural season in 1995, and the Indianapolis Colts in 1997. Chung would then retire after that season, and then join the Kansas City Chiefs Practice squad from 1998-1999.  His last stint as a player was when he joined the Philadelphia Eagles Practice squad with Andy Reid in 2000. He would go down as the first Korean-American drafted in the NFL. It wouldn’t be until 2010 when Chung rejoined Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles but this time on the sidelines.

Coaching Career

Chung earned his first coaching gig in the NFL when he was hired by Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles Organization in 2010 to be their offensive line coach. After that, Chung and Reid reunited in 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and he served as the offensive line coach again. Chung was part of a coaching staff that included offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who would receive his first head coaching job in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. He asked Chung to be his offensive line coach and the two joined forces in Philadelphia where they would win a ring over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52.

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In the United States, the month of May is celebrated as Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  This celebration started in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into a joint resolution in Congress designing the month of May to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders; their culture and heritage. Does this make sense that the discriminatory marks were made in a month of celebration?  Were they a coincidence? Why are we going backwards when it should be about the progress of Asians/Pacific Islanders in the workplace?

Now we will just have to wait and see what the NFL comes up with into their investigation into Chung’s inquiry.  It makes you think about the questions really being asked during NFL interviews taking place in 2021.