Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who was fired this offseason and has been interviewing for several open positions, is suing the NFL, the New York Giants, the Dolphins and Denver Broncos for racial discrimination.
The lawsuit filed states that the league "remains rife with racism" and that "in certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation." It points out that none of the 32 NFL owners are black and that they profit from the labor of players, 70% of whom are Black. Flores said he is deciding to stand up for himself, and he hopes others join him.
"God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals," Flores said regarding the lawsuit in a release, per NFL Media's Mike Giardi. "In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come."
'Sham interview' with the Giants
The class action complaint begins with a text from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who mistakingly texted Flores thinking he had landed the Giants head coaching job three days before Flores officially interviewed for it. Belichick apologized, saying he "misread the text" and that he heard New York was hiring Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. According to the lawsuit, Flores then had to sit through this "sham interview" with new general manager Joe Schoen, which Flores' representatives say was only held in an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operation positions. Daboll was hired as the Giants head coach Jan. 28.
"It is impossible to put into words the emotions Mr. Flores felt upon learning that not only would he not be getting the Giants Head Coach job—the job of his dreams—but, more importantly, that he was not even being given serious consideration for the position but being treated as a box to 'check off' due to his race."
*The following texts are NSFW*
The Giants released a statement following being named in the lawsuit, via ESPN's Jordan Raanan:
"We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach."
'Sham interview' with the Broncos
The class action suit also claims that this was not the first "sham interview" that Flores took part in. In 2019, Flores met with the Broncos and then-general manager John Elway, CEO Joe Ellis and other members of the organization. Per the suit, the men showed up an hour late, looked "completely disheveled" and "it was obvious" they had been drinking heavily the night before. According to Flores, the substance of the interview showed him that he was only interviewed because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never considered him to be a serious candidate. Vic Fangio was eventually hired as Denver's head coach.
The Broncos then released a statement regarding their past interview with Flores, via ESPN's Adam Schefter:
"The allegations from Brian Flores directed toward the Denver Broncos in today's court filing are blatantly false. Our interview with Mr. Flores regarding our head coaching position began promptly at the scheduled time of 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2019, in a Providence, R.I., hotel. There were five Broncos executives present for the interview, which lasted approximately three-and-a-half hours -- the fully allotted time -- and concluded shortly before 11 a.m. Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate. Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position. The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization -- and its employees -- from such baseless and disparaging claims."
Dolphins tanking and tampering allegations
This was not all that was mentioned in the 58-page lawsuit. Flores also claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he would pay Flores $100,000 for every loss the team had in 2019. Miami finished 5-11, and general manager Chris Grier allegedly told Flores that Ross was "mad" his new coach had compromised the team's draft position. Following the 2019 season, Ross was accused of tampering with a "prominent quarterback" and inviting him and coach Flores to his private yacht. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, that quarterback was none other than Tom Brady. Flores refused this illegal meeting. After Flores failed to comply with "improper directives," he says he was treated with "disdain" and as someone who was noncompliant. Following two winning seasons in a row, Flores was fired and labeled as someone difficult to work with.
The Dolphins released a statement shortly after the lawsuit was reported, via Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald:
"We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon. We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect. We will be withholding further comment on the lawsuit at this time."
Rooney Rule issues
The documents also accuse the Houston Texans of discriminatory treatment of former head coach David Culley, address the "double-standard" in firing of former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and point to the fact that Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy cannot get a head coaching job.
Flores' suit states that the NFL has had issues with the Rooney Rule since its inception in 2003. The rule requires that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operation positions. The suit gave several examples of teams failing to adequately comply with the Rooney Rule. In 2003, Dennis Green was one of five minority candidates who turned down interviews to become the Lions' head coach. The reason, according to the suit, was because then-Lions general manager Matt Millen made it known that he wanted to hire former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci for the position. The league fined the Lions $200,000 for violating the rule. Included in the suit is a rundown of the NFL's lack of minority hiring. The Steelers' Mike Tomlin is the NFL's only Black head coach, while there are four Black offensive coordinators and 11 Black defensive coordinators. There are six Black general managers among the NFL's 32 teams. NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell acknowledged that the NFL needed to improve its minority hiring during his annual state of the NFL press conference prior to Super Bowl LIV. Despite those comments, the NFL continues to face issues regarding minority hiring.
The NFL released a statement regarding Flores' lawsuit, stating that his claims are "without merit:"
"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
"This is a class action lawsuit that is finally bringing to light what any number of Black coaches have told me over my decade of covering the NFL and certainly what has taken place far before I ever started covering the NFL." -- CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones on CBS Sports HQ.
"I'm greatly concerned because now it's coming to light all of the dirty little secrets that we all hold very close to the vest when we run teams. As president of a team for 18 years, we all conduct interviews when we are looking for managers or coaches so as to not violate what in baseball is called the Selig Rule, and what in football is called the Rooney Rule. It is clear to everybody involved that there are these sham interviews, but it was never spoken about publicly. Brian Flores made a decision that to me is historic. And the reason it's historic is that when you will look back on this in 10 years or 20 years or 30 years, you will look at Brian Flores as the person who had the courage to bring to light that which was in the dark at his own personal cost." -- CBS Sports' David Samson on CBS Sports HQ.
Flores may not be facing the NFL alone. According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo, he's spoken to two other coaches who believe they have the "receipts" to be a part of this. Even in Flores' noble fight, this lawsuit could take himself out of the running for future head coaching jobs.
"I'm going to take my reporter hat off here and just as a Black man who has been around the league, like -- you saw what happened to Colin Kaepernick -- Brian Flores is probably never coaching in the NFL again. That's what his comment, that's what his statement read, that's what he understands in filing this lawsuit. He knows that you can't blow the whistle on something like this and ultimately be welcomed back into a group that is essentially run by folks who don't look like you." -- CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones on CBS Sports HQ.
Flores and his attorneys, Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, joined "CBS Mornings" live and in studio to talk about the racial discrimination lawsuit against the league.