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NFL will review Eugene Chung’s allegation that interviewer said: ‘You are not the right minority’

Former Patriot Eugene Chung says interviewer for an NFL team said: ‘You are not the right minority’
Former player and coach Eugene Chung told the Globe that an executive told Chung he was “not the right minority we’re looking for” during a job interview. (Photo by Bill Powers/Globe Staff)

The NFL said Monday that it will look deeper into allegations made Thursday by former player and coach Eugene Chung that an interviewer for an NFL team made racially insensitive remarks during a job interview this past offseason.

Chung told the Globe that the executive told Chung he was “not the right minority we’re looking for.”

“We will review the matter,” the league said in a statement. “That comment is completely inappropriate and contrary to league values and workplace policies. The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all personnel in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

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Chung, who is Korean, has been looking to get back into the NFL after last coaching the offensive line and tight ends for the Eagles in 2019. He made the comments during a Globe-sponsored panel discussion on the experiences of Asian-American athletes.

Rod Graves of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates on behalf of coaches from underrepresented and minority groups, told the Globe that he was in contact with the NFL office on Monday, and that he will ensure the league investigates the matter fully.

“If the comments regarding his status as a Korean American are true, it is further evidence that despite good faith changes to diversity-related policies, the NFL’s actual hiring practices are still riddled with discrimination,” Graves said in a statement.

Racial diversity and inclusion has been a major issue for the NFL after years of accusations that the league hasn’t done enough on those fronts. The NFL has five non-white head coaches out of 32 teams: Mike Tomlin, Steelers; Robert Saleh, Jets; Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team; Brian Flores, Dolphins; and David Culley, Texans. There are five non-white GMs: Chris Grier, Dolphins; Martin Mayhew, Washington Football Team; Andrew Berry, Browns; Terry Fontenot, Falcons; and Brad Holmes, Lions.

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The NFL created its Rooney Rule in 2003 to promote diverse hiring, but the league has had to strengthen the rule several times because not enough progress was being made.

In 2020, the NFL adjusted the rule so that teams must now interview two minority candidates for a head coaching job; one minority candidate for a coordinator job; and one minority candidate for executive positions both on the football and business side of the team.

Starting in 2021, teams are rewarded for developing minority candidates who land head coaching and GM positions. Losing one minority candidate nets a team a third-round draft pick in two consecutive drafts; losing two in one offseason nets a third-round pick in three straight drafts.

Chung, 51, was a first-round pick in 1992 by the Patriots who played five NFL seasons, and subsequently spent the 2010-19 seasons coaching for the Eagles and Chiefs.

Chung said he was “blown away” when his interviewer said that he wasn’t the “right” minority. Chung did not say which team was involved, and attempts to reach Chung on Monday were unsuccessful.

“I asked myself, ‘Did I hear that correctly?’” Chung said. “It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that in 2021, something like that is actually a narrative.”

Chung, the first Asian-American player drafted in the first round, said last week that he hopes to get another NFL coaching job.

“I’m not sitting here bashing the league at all, because there are great mentors and there are great coaches that embrace the difference,” Chung said. “It’s just when the Asians don’t fit the narrative, that’s where my stomach churns a little bit.”

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Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.