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Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (Law and Current Events Masters) [Hardcover]

by N. Jeremi Duru, Tony Dungy
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 7, 2011 0199736006 978-0199736003
Following the NFL's desegregation in 1946, opportunities became increasingly plentiful for African American players--but not African American coaches. Although Major League Baseball and the NBA made progress in this regard over the years, the NFL's head coaches were almost exclusively white up until the mid-1990s. Advancing the Ball chronicles the campaign of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman John Wooten to right this wrong and undo decades of discriminatory head coach hiring practices--an initiative that finally bore fruit when he joined forces with attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran. Together with a few allies, the triumvirate galvanized the NFL's African American assistant coaches to stand together for equal opportunity and convinced the league to enact the "Rooney Rule," which stipulates that every team must interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach. In doing so, they spurred a movement that would substantially impact the NFL and, potentially, the nation. Featuring an impassioned foreword by Coach Tony Dungy, Advancing the Ball offers an eye-opening, first-hand look at how a few committed individuals initiated a sea change in America's most popular sport and added an extraordinary new chapter to the civil rights story.

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Editorial Reviews


"There's no question the Rooney Rule has changed the NFL's culture... Reaching this point was a long, difficult road, which N. Jeremi Duru explains in his outstanding new book, Advancing The Ball." --Jason Reid, The Washington Post

"A masterpiece of social inquiry, depicting an important modern-day civil rights story. Duru tells a persuasive story, in a compelling way. The book reads like a legal drama with character development, thick descriptions, suspense, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome in the fight for race reformation in the NFL.... Duru's impeccable ability to tell a compelling non-fiction story is a highlight of this work." --Law & Politics Book Review

"Former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman John Wooten . . . kicked of the campaign that led to the ending of discriminatory head-coach hiring practices. Thus the Rooney Rule was born, stipulating every team would interview at least one minority during a head-coach search. Fast forward to now. Good job, Wooten. And good job, Duru, for telling this important story." --Ebony

"My personal journey of success would have been much more difficult if not for the sacrifices of many that blazed my trail. The Fritz Pollard Alliance created a highway for expanded opportunities for African Americans, which are chronicled in this fascinating and historic book."--Warren Moon, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback

"An incredibly interesting and enlightening read. This book should be required reading for any level of sports enthusiast, as it explains so much about the complex intersection of sport and race. Without knowing this story, you simply cannot understand the evolution of sport over the past 50 years."--Woodie Dixon, Jr., General Counsel to the Pac-12 Conference and former General Counsel to the Kansas City Chiefs

"Advancing the Ball provides a hopeful message, with engaging discussion of how policies can be instituted to correct patterns of unfairness and injustice."--Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated Legal Analyst, and Director of the Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute

"This excellent book is a must for fans of football and other sports, as well as for those with a passion for racial justice. Professor Duru offers us a thoughtful and engaging perspective on the evolution of equal treatment in professional football."--Paul C. Weiler, Professor, Harvard Law School, and Creator of Harvard's Sports and the Law Course

"Delivers a mass-market account of the history of the so-called Rooney Rule...[reminding] us that the Rooney Rule didn't emerge overnight."--Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"If, in the old days, newspapers were the rough draft of history, then what does that make the blogs, tweets and podcasts of now? The graffiti of history? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the 24-7 news nutcracker spits out context sparingly. That's why you need a guy like N. Jeremi Duru to write a book like Advancing The Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL.... The book is an inside job and a good one." --Geoff Hobson, Editor of

"A terrific book. . . I hope this book gets the audience it clearly deserves." --Dave Zirin, Host of the Edge of Sports Radio Show

About the Author

N. Jeremi Duru is Associate Professor of Law at Temple University. He has worked directly with the network of African American coaches in the NFL and brings an insider's perspective to his larger story about race and sports in contemporary American society.

Product Details

  • Series: Law and Current Events Masters
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (January 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199736006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199736003
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,188,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

N. Jeremi Duru, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, is among the nation's foremost sports law authorities. He is a co-author of one of the field's premier casebooks, Sports Law and Regulation: Cases and Materials (3rd edition) (Wolters Kluwer), and he has written numerous articles and book chapters exploring sports law in various respects. Professor Duru has a particular interest in sport's impact on society, which he explores in much of his work, most notably in Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (Oxford University Press).

In addition, Professor Duru has for years counseled sports industry professionals and entities with respect to employment matters, and in recognition of his work, the National Bar Association honored Professor Duru with its 2005 Sports and Entertainment Lawyer of the Year award.

Professor Duru is a frequent media contributor. He has served as a Legal Analyst and Commentator for Yahoo! Sports' online magazine, The Post Game, and has provided commentary for a number of media outlets including BBC, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, NPR, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New York Daily News.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Sports Book January 8, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love great sports books, but I set the bar high. There are characteristics that I expect a good sports book to have.
First and foremost, I want them to be well written and N. Jeremi Duru has done just that in his excellent book, Advancing the Ball. This book contains compelling stories and excellent research to document the history of racial inequality in the coaching ranks of the NFL. A sports book should also be captivating and right from the foreword by Tony Dungy, I had difficulty putting this book down. I also believe a sports book should teach me something new and that was what I found with Advancing the Ball. The behind the scenes stories on Johnnie Cochran, Kellen Winslow, Cyrus Mehri, and the Fritz Pollard Alliance brought a picture of all the work that went on to make the Rooney Rule possible. And this brings me to my other requirement of a good sports book which is that it connect with the larger issues in society and Duru's book does that so well. Like the Blind Side, Playing the Enemy, The Ticket Out, and Scoreboard Baby, Advancing the Ball demonstrates that the larger issues in our society are also evident in the world of sports. This is an excellent book and it now sits on my shelf next to sports books by Scott Simon, Michael Lewis, David Maraniss, and Roger Kahn and it deserves to be there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book will grab your interest right from the beginning with a forward written by Tony Dungy. A very hard to put down book that depicts behind the scenes how the Rooney Rule came to be in the NFL. The author allows the reader to understand what hard work, determination and effort went into establishing the Rooney Rule as well as who played a role in its birth. This is a very well written book about racial equality and the climb towards equal opportunities in coaching in the NFL, a must read for sports enthusiasts and affirmative action supporters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent...a must read March 13, 2011
I don't consider myself a football fan - far from it, but this book is not just about football. It tells a vivid story of righting wrongs that transcend the game of football and speaks to the larger issue of equality. From the first page to the final sentence, you are drawn in. There are historical events interwoven with the larger story which adds even more depth to the overall struggle some face in life - work, home, community etc. Excellent read...well done Jeremi...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspires the Human Spirit February 23, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was on a plane to Fort Myers on Super Bowl Sunday, during the 3 hour flight, I could scarcely put the book down. At first, I thought how appropriate, I won't be able to watch the game on television, so I read about football. But, I was pleasantly surprised that this scholarly work by N. Jeremi Duru is more than just a football story.

At its' core, it is even more than just a civil rights story; it is human story. The author fantastically story tells and story-interweaves, if there is such a word. I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes about Johnnie Cochran's ancestry and early childhood that brings us as readers to the point where he made the decision to become a civil rights lawyer all the way up to precise moment that he decided to partner with another lawyer,Cyrus Mehri to force the NFL to changing it's hiring practices for head coaches and front office personnel.

Rarely, will you read a book about race relations in the United State that does not leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, either you walk away feeling depressed, indifferent, or angry.

What I liked about Mr. Duru's work is that he keeps it real about the racial prejudice and discrimination suffered by African American coaches within the National Football League. Yet,this book was uplifting. Anyone, any race could read this book and respond in that way, this civil rights story is so conventiently relatable to us all. It beckons us to aspire to greatness even in the face of adversity and also reminds of our social responsbility not just settle for the status quo, or stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us, but as the author put it in a titled chapter,to Dig Deeper Wells.

I heartily endorse this book, as a quick and inspiring read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a Football Story & So Much More--I Loved it! February 21, 2011
By Pen
Compelling exploration of the NFL's decision to face the uncomfortable reality of the institutionalized inequality in its ranks. This book lets you in on personal stories of players and coaches who reveal their experiences with race and the NFL; high-powered discussions among NFL leadership and powerful figures that changed the face of NFL front offices; and the backstory of the bold outsider attorneys who took a chance and shocked themselves and everyone else by leading change in NFL hiring practices using an unorthodox approach. Throughout, the broader civil rights context is kept in the forefront of the discussion. For someone who loves inspirational sports tales or who never follows sports but is interested in civil rights, this book is must read. I loved it!
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