Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is biracial and 'extremely proud'

Safid Deen
USA TODAY Sports+

A day after categorizing himself as a “human being” was met with criticism on social media, Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said he is extremely proud of his biracial background.

“First and foremost, I’m biracial," McDaniel told ESPN Friday. "My mom is white. My dad is black. And I’ve been that way my whole life. But the most important thing is I’ve been extremely proud of that my whole life – extremely proud.

“It is a unique experience, being a race and then fully acknowledging that most outside observers, when they perceive you, they identify you as something other than the race you are. When you're younger and that is happening, it's very, very confusing.”

McDaniel’s background has been a hot topic since being hired last week by the Dolphins, who are embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit with former coach Brian Flores.

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McDaniel and new Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith joined the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin, Washington Commanders' Ron Rivera, and New York Jets' Robert Saleh as the league’s only minority head coaches.

Still, lack of diversity among coaches, general managers and owners remains contentious. Six of the eight filled jobs this cycle were filled by white candidates. After Sunday night’s Super Bowl LVI, the Minnesota Vikings are expected to hire Kevin O'Connell as their next head coach, the final opening this cycle.

McDaniel’s predecessor is an Afro-Latino coach who filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL to shed light on the injustices Black coaches face during interviewing, hiring and firing processes.

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During McDaniels’ introductory news conference Thursday, USA Today Sports+ asked about his experience growing up biracial — and if earning the Dolphins job could set an example for people with the same experience.

“Yeah, it’s been very odd, to tell you the truth – this idea of identifying as something," McDaniel said. "I think people identify me as something, but I identify as a human being. And my dad is Black. So, whatever you want to call it. I know there’s a lot of people with a shared experience. It’s weird that it comes up because I’ve just tried to be a good person and I think my background opens my eyes a little bit.

“I don’t have any real experience with racism because, you know, I think you identify me as something close to — I don’t know. But I know my mom experienced it when she married my dad. I know my dad experienced it. And that’s in my family. But I guess that makes me a human being that can identify with other people’s problems.”

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McDaniel told ESPN his way of unifying his biracial experience is to consider himself a human being.

"I think what I was saying is that you have to come to a realization at some point, you have to have a comfort level," McDaniel said. "You have to have a resolution when you're younger and you have these odd things happening to you. And for me, it was, ‘OK, you're a human.’ That was my resolution. For me, in my experience, that's how I resolved that.

"I think it's something that helped me not feel so confused through the whole process.”

Former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, who played in Washington while McDaniel worked as an offensive assistant and receivers coach, came to McDaniel’s defense Thursday.

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“I have known Mike McDaniel for 10 years," Griffin tweeted Thursday. "Known his Dad is black for 10 years. Have talked with him about it. Let the man Coach and stop forcing things on him that he doesn’t want. He understands racism and also understands that he didn’t have to face it because of his appearance.

In a separate tweet, Griffin wrote McDaniel “also hates being used as a political ploy for the NFL’s diversity issues just because his Dad is Black.”

McDaniel first addressed his race during a 2021 interview with NBC Sports, saying he realized at a young age he was not the same skin tone as relatives in photos at his grandmother’s house.

“I can honestly say up to that point, I hadn’t noticed that I was different in two fields,” McDaniel said in the interview. “I was different in that I was multi-racial to the world. But even within my own family, I was different from them. I was just kind of a unicorn.”

McDaniel added he was drawn to football because of the diverse “melting pot” of people.

“Here are these people I could kind of identify with," McDaniel said. "Because, mind you, it was hard for me to identify. I was different, as I understood it.”