In August the Washington Football team hired Jason Wright as their new team president. As soon as Wright accepted that position he became the first Black team president in NFL history. The pressure of calling the shots in one of the most dysfunctional organizations to date already has it’s challenges — doing so as a Black male opens the door to other pressures seen and unseen.
Recently, in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Brian Mitchell, Wright discussed how his transition into the new role, especially as a person of color, has gone. And how the Baltimore Ravens executive vice president, Ozzie Newsome has operated as a pivotal example for him.
“[Ozzie] Newsome has long been a role model of mine. I played most of my career with the Browns, so did Ozzie, so I always followed him,” Wright said. “Then, he was GM’ing our rival. He was extremely professional.”
“I knew that he knew he was carrying this burden of ‘I need to be on point for every other person that looks like me that didn’t get a shot, and for everyone that wants a shot,” Wright continued. “And that’s not a fair burden for the first or the person of color to carry, but it’s real.”
Newsome served as a front-office executive with the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until their relocation to Baltimore in 1996. He has remained an executive with the Ravens since their inaugural season and then was named the first general manager of the Ravens — the first African-American to occupy that position in the NFL.
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Newsome earned two Super Bowl rings during his time as Ravens’ general manager — his first coming in 2001 when the Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34-7, and his second when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.
Recently the NFL has taken a step back in managerial diversity hiring — in 2016 there were seven African American general managers. In 2020? Just two. In 2018 there were eight minority head coaches. In 2020? Four. Wright is well aware that his position is not one that most Black men/women can say they’ve held. His response to the lack of diversity? It’s on him.
“Like it or not the NFL has tried to get ahead on this. The Rooney Rule is not something that companies do. You can say it’s ineffective, you can say it doesn’t work but companies outside of this industry aren’t even doing that!” Wright said. “They don’t even have a rule that requires you to interview somebody, even though it doesn’t work as well as we would all like.”
“As I learn this industry and see the barriers that exist, I can speak on those. I can be a thought-partner to everyone, the league office and others, on what they’re trying to do to solve it and I’m here to do that,” Wright said. “I’m here to help as much as I can to create those open pathways.”