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Mark Davis says Rooney Rule “not necessary for the Raiders”

Oakland Raiders Introduce Jon Gruden

ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 09: Oakland Raiders new head coach Jon Gruden (L) and Raiders owner Mark Davis pose for a photograph during a news conference at Oakland Raiders headquarters on January 9, 2018 in Alameda, California. Jon Gruden has returned to the Oakland Raiders after leaving the team in 2001. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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The NFL strengthened the Rooney Rule a year after the Raiders didn’t follow the spirit of the rule in the hiring of Jon Gruden. The Raiders now will have to abide by the new rule in their hiring of a General Manager.

Raiders owner Mark Davis defended himself and his franchise by pointing out that recently fired G.M. Reggie McKenzie, who is African-American, was his first hire.

“On the Rooney Rule, obviously it must be necessary in society for some reason. It’s never been necessary for the Raiders,” Davis said Wednesday from the NFL owners meetings in Irving, Texas. “My first hire was Reggie McKenzie, and it wasn’t out of any. . . . I didn’t realize what color he was. He had red hair and freckles. I don’t work like that.

“But I think if they strengthen it, that’s great. And we’re going to follow that, just as we did last year. It’ll be a little more transparent this time.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance complained that the Raiders made a sham of the Rooney Rule last year by agreeing with Gruden before the team fired Jack Del Rio and before it interviewed a minority candidate. The Raiders eventually interviewed then-USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin and tight ends coach Bobby Johnson.

The beefed up Rooney Rule will require involvement of a club’s final decision-maker throughout the interview process and an interview of a minority candidate from the NFL’s Career Development Advisory List or a candidate not currently employed by the team. Davis did not interview the Rooney Rule candidates last year.

The Raiders have yet to begin the interview process for McKenzie’s replacement.

“One of the issues we have right now is when you’re dealing with player personnel and the General Managers, they’re on a different schedule than the football team is,” Davis said. “The General Manager sees an end basically in April or May after they’ve drafted the players and after they’ve gotten through the first series of free agency. So right now, there’s a lot of people that are on other teams that may be suitable for the Raiders, but we can’t talk to them, and we won’t be able to talk to them until May or so. So right now we’re limited to talking to people who are not on other teams or in the college ranks or something of that nature. That’s the interesting part of this.”