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Shortly after the Carolina Panthers announced they’d hired Frank Reich as their new head coach, Wigdor Law—the legal representation for Steve Wilks—made an announcement of their own.
The law firm let their displeasure be known with the franchise’s decision from team owner David Tepper.
According to Panthers Wire, Wilks was named the Panthers’ interim coach on Oct. 10, following the dismissal of the underperforming and uninspiring Matt Rhule.
From there, 53-year-old Charlotte native Wilks revived the team and its fan base—dragging a once 1-4 squad to the doorstep of an improbable NFC South title.
Nonetheless, Tepper and his braintrust set out—very early on—to replace Wilks with an “offensive-minded coach”, in spite of the team’s positive trajectory with an extremely deficient talent base.
White coaches are often assumed to be “offensive-minded,” however, in actuality, many of those hires flame out within a few years. The difference is they are often signed to a long-term contract, earning them a hefty severance while also maintaining their reputation for their next landing spot.
Meanwhile, interim Black coaches like Wilks are often demoted and rarely afforded the opportunity to lead a team again, even with more proven success than their White counterparts.
In early April of 2022, Wilks joined fellow African-American coach Brian Flores in his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.
At the time, Wilks said in part, “This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as White coaches and candidates. That is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality.”
Black NFL coaches understand they are the last hired and first fired, even as division rivals, Wilks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles remained supportive of one another over the last season.
Steve Wilks deserves a head coaching job, but where will he get it?
Sadly, well wishes and recommendations aren’t enough for men like Bowles or Wilks.
Black NFL coaches do not carry the same power to sway an owner, bring in their own assistants, or vouch for a hire as Caucasian coaches.
Not only did Wilks revive the Panthers 2022 season in his hometown’s backyard, but he did so navigating the team through numerous in-season controversies.
Wilks was embraced and supported by players and the city of Charlotte, a major factor in leading a team and allegedly what owners seek in an ideal head coach.
The more things change…
Prior to his head coaching promotion during this NFL regular season, in April 2022, Wilks’ lawyers said that the veteran coach had been previously discriminated against as a “bridge coach” who was “not given any meaningful chance to succeed” before being fired in Arizona.
The never-ending cycle of Black coaches placed in substandard and ineffective franchises only to be dismissed unceremoniously has shed light on the league which professes equality and inclusion for all.
No tangible proposal or resolution has been identified to curtail the mismanagement, discrimination, and favoritism at play with the NFL’s good ol’ boys, who have historically demonstrated no propensity to change the stifling status quo.