NFL assistant coach Eugene Chung, who is Korean, said he was told Asians are not the "right minority" when he interviewed for an NFL coaching position this past offseason, The Boston Globe reported.
"It was said to me, 'Well, you're really not a minority,'" said Chung, who has 10 years of coaching experience in the NFL, as well as being a former offensive tackle in the league for five seasons. "I was like, 'Wait a minute. The last time I checked, when I looked in the mirror and brushed my teeth, I was a minority.' So I was like, 'What do you mean I'm not a minority?'"
The interviewer responded, "You are not the right minority we're looking for."
"That's when I realized what the narrative was," Chung said, who did not name the team in question.
"I asked about it, and as soon as the backtracking started, I was like, 'Oh, no, no, no, no, no, you said it. Now that it's out there, let's talk about it,'" he said. "It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that in 2021, something like that is actually a narrative."
"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 continued. "It's just when the Asians don't fit the narrative, that's where my stomach churns a little bit."
"For me, in this profession, I don't think I'm looked at as a minority," he added, "Whether that's good or bad, I don't know."
Chung became the first Asian-American to get drafted in the first round of the NFL in 1992 and was only the third Asian to play in the league.
Chung told the Globe he tries to challenge those who make racist comments.
He remembers being on the field before a game and hearing a fan shout, "Hey Mr. Miyagi, what do you coach? Karate?" Chung said he walked over and confronted the fan, recalling he "just cowered away, like most of them do."
Chung, who has not coached in the NFL since the end of the 2019 season, said he does not have all the answers to improve the league's narrative concerning Asian-Americans.
"I think that's what can be done, is to put that information out there and let people know," Chung said. "If people don't know about the temperature of what's going on out there, they'll never know."
The NFL has attempted to address its lack of diversity through the Rooney Rule, which mandates clubs interview at least two minority candidates for head coaching and coordinator openings, according to the Globe. The owners also passed a resolution in November that rewards organizations for developing minority coaching talent with draft compensation.
But despite those attempts to press for diversity, minority candidates are still not being promoted to the top jobs, and the effectiveness of the rule has been questioned on a regular basis, according to the report.
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