The National Football League announced Thursday that it could not back up allegations from Eugene Chung, an Asian American former NFL player and coach, that discriminatory comments were made to him during a job interview.
In a statement provided to NBC Asian America, the NFL wrote that it was “unable to confirm the precise statement that was made, or by whom and under what circumstances any such statement was made.” Chung had previously refused to publicly reveal the identity of the perpetrator after alleging in May that he was told he was “not the right minority” the team was looking for.
“Following public reports of comments made in a conversation with former NFL player and coach Eugene Chung – comments that have no place in the NFL or in any contemporary workplace – we undertook a review of this matter,” the NFL wrote in the statement. “Nonetheless, we intend to use this occasion to reinforce the commitment of the NFL and of every NFL club to ensure appropriate interview processes and develop diverse, inclusive, and respectful workforces on and off the field.”
Chung, who made history in 1992 as the first Asian American to be drafted into the NFL in the first round, served on the NFL coaching staffs in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Chung, who is Korean American, said during a panel this year that was part of the Boston Globe's Leadership Lunch Series that he was told during a job interview for a coaching position, “You’re really not a minority.”
“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,'” Chung recalled, according to The Boston Globe.
Chung, who declined to say which team this happened with, said he then pushed the interviewer to elaborate.
“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,’” Chung said. “It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that in 2021, something like that is actually a narrative.”
He told the panel that the experience was “emotionally paralyzing” but representative of the problematic perception that many have of Asian Americans.
"I'm a minority, but I'm in an invisible minority. I'm the 'model minority,'" Chung said. "I'm sure we've heard so many times and that's the way I felt leaving that. That's why I'm here today is because of a comment like that and the directive that's out there right now.
He said the incident compelled him to "raise my voice and put out there what I'm experiencing."
While the NFL has dropped the case, it said Chung has offered to assist the league moving forward.
“We welcome the opportunity to speak with him about how we can better advance employment opportunities throughout the League,” the statement said.