Mark Twain once famously quipped that he hoped to be in Cincinnati when the world ended because it would get their seven years later. Not much has changed in the last century since Twain spoke those words; Cincinnati is still reticent to embrace change and her favorite son in that regard might as well be Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown. Insert Mike Brown's name with your favorite joke about light bulbs or underwear and you've got yourself a winner.
Surprisingly though, Brown and the Bengals have been leaders in one area: hiring and keeping an ethnic and gender diverse organization. In keeping with his father's progressive nature in that regard, Mike Brown has hardly been one to stick with the "good ol' boys" network when it comes to his organization.
Marvin Lewis will be the Bengals coach for his 10th season in 2012, tying him with Dennis Green for the longest tenure of an African-American head coach with one team (Green spent 10 seasons in Minnesota). Brown was the first owner within the AFC North to hire a person of color to run his team, predating Romeo Crennell's stint with the Browns and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh.
Additionally, two other coaches of color have risen to head coaching roles after serving as assistants with the Bengals. Lewis' first defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier currently is the head coach in Minnesota and receivers coach Hue Jackson went on to coach the Oakland Raiders this year, although he was let go at the end of the season.
As for gender, Mike's daughter, Katie Blackburn, has been a part of the Bengals front office for two decades and is poised to succeed her father as the leader of the franchise when he steps down. When that day comes, she will become only the third female NFL owner in league history. She's currently one of a handful of female executives in the NFL. She's also one of five females in key decision-making roles within the front office.
She's earned her position. Blackburn has been in charge of negotiating player contracts and navigating the salary cap during her tenure with the team. She has sat across the table with the likes of Drew Rosenhaus and not blinked.
With February being Black History month and the recent attention drawn by Jeremy Lin's emergence as an Asian-American in the NBA, it's refreshing to know that the Cincinnati Bengals are on the forefront of promoting diversity within the NFL.
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