A lawyer representing Steve Wilks, the former Carolina Panthers interim coach who was turned down for the permanent head coaching position in favor of former Colts coach Frank Reich, says that Carolina’s refusal to hire his client shows that the NFL has a “legitimate race problem.”
Wilks is a black coach who took the reins in Carolina following a difficult first month of 2022. Wilks returned the Panthers’ credibility and guided them to a 6-6-7 record. Wilks had great success with the Panthers and was supported by many key players. However, Wilks wasn’t given the full-time position and Frank Reich, former Colts Coach, was hired instead. Reich is also white.
David Wigdon, Wilks’ attorney, released a statement following Reich’s hire highlighting what he calls the NFL’s “legitimate race problem.”
“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into Playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the Head Coach position by David Tepper,”This is the statement.
“There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”
Wilks isn’t the first to be involved in an actual or potential legal proceeding regarding race and the NFL. Most notably, he was a member of former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the league.
Wilks was not chosen for the job as a head coach by a white man before. Arizona’s Wilks, who had been the Cardinals head coach for one season, was fired. Kliff Kingbury replaced him, a white young head coach without any previous NFL experience. He also has a less than stellar record in Texas Tech Red Raiders coaching.
For Reich’s part, he became head coach of the Colts in 2018 and led them to two playoff appearances before being dismissed in the middle of the 2022 season and replaced by Jeff Saturday.
Wilks issued a statement after Reich’s hire.
“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I. I’m disappointed but not defeated. Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.”
— Steve Wilks (@ScoreonD) January 27, 2023
Wilks’ NFL coaching career began in 2006, when he was hired by the Chicago Bears to be their defensive backs coach.
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