Taking a cue from the world of professional football, a Black tycoon is suggesting that those filling jobs in top executive suites take a more regular, closer look at Blacks for these top-level corporate positions.

BET and the RLJ Companies founder Bob Johnson have suggested that Fortune 1000 companies voluntarily adopt a corporate version of the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule,” which requires that teams interview a Black candidate if they have a vacancy in a position of corporate authority-i.e., CEO, division head or other key positions-similar to the way the teams make sure Blacks and coaches of color interview for their head coach positions.

Calling it the “RLJ Rule,” Johnson thinks the corporate world would benefit greatly from mirroring the NFL’s practices.

The NFL began the practice in the early 2000s after the late Johnnie Cochran took up the cause, representing current and former Black coaches. They argued at the time that despite the fact that more than 70 percent of the players in the NFL were Black, there was a real lag in hiring Black coaches, and when Blacks were hired, they were often given the opportunity to coach the worst teams in the league and were fired if they were not able to achieve a quick turnaround.

In a 2002 report, Cochran and labor law attorney Cyrus Mehri found that despite the high percentage of Black players in the league, only 28 percent of the assistant coaches and 6 percent of the head coaches were Black. As a result, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney put together a committee to study the issue and the Rooney Rule was born.

If a head coaching position is available, teams are required to interview at least one ethnic minority candidate or face a fine from the league office.

Today, there are a number of Black coaches (seven as of September 2011) in the NFL, and the league made history in 2007 when two Black coaches, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts, met in Super Bowl XLI.

Johnson, who was the first African-American to amass $1 billion as a corporate leader, sees the same kind of potential in the business world.

“The RLJ Rule is principally designed to encourage companies to voluntarily establish a best practices policy to identify and interview the tremendous talent pool of African-American managers and African-American companies that are often overlooked because of traditional hiring or procurement practices,” said Johnson in a publicly circulated press release.

Johnson also said that he planned on sending a letter seeking support for the implementation of the RLJ Rule on a voluntary basis to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Business Council, the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, the Executive Leadership Council, the President’s Jobs Council, Congressional leadership of both parties, the Congressional Black Caucus, National Urban League, the NAACP, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the National Black MBA Association, as well as other civic, civil rights and faith-based organizations.

But some want the rule added not only to the corporate world but to other sports across the Atlantic Ocean as well.

Back in September, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said he would like the Rooney Rule to be implemented in English football. “Yes, I would like the Rooney Rule here in England, and the arrival of Cyrus Mehri will be a big boost to putting together a plan that could achieve it,” Taylor told ESPNSoccernet. “Cyrus won the battle in the States to compel owners of gridiron football to interview a Black candidate whenever a managerial vacancy occurred, and I would like this to happen in this country.

“Let’s face it, it is still very sparse, the number of Black managers and coaches in this country,” Taylor continued. “Although we do have Chris Houghton at Birmingham and Chris Powell at Charlton, we have to make sure there is a much greater opportunity for more diversity in our game.”

Mehri has flown out to the United Kingdom to talk to the Football Association, Premier League, Football League and League Managers Association about the Rooney Rule.