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*On this date in 2007 the first African American professional head football coach qualified for the NFL’s Super Bowl.
Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears led his team to victory in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints; the score was 39 to 14. "Being the first black coach to lead this team, of course our players knew about it and they wanted to help us make history," Smith said. "So I feel blessed to be in that position. "I'll feel even better to be the first black coach to hold up the world championship trophy."
After taking 41 years, it wasn't all that long ago that the NFL's best jobs were off-limits to Blacks. Never mind that three-quarters of the league's rosters were filled with black players. There were qualified black assistants; yet when the time came to hire a new coach, they were passed over, time and again. Meanwhile, white coaches who had done little to distinguish themselves in their previous two or three jobs got additional chances. It was the old boy’s network based on race.
There's been some progress over the last two decades and it took an active hand by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to move it along.
Art Shell, Dennis Green, Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards and others paved the way for Smith. Mike Tomlin and Anthony Lynn are currently coaching in the NFL.
The Associated Press
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image: CBS News