Hue Jackson is applauding Brian Flores' efforts to battle systemic racism in the NFL, to say the least. Flores filed a class action suit against the NFL and New York Giants, among other teams, alleging violation of the integrity of the Rooney Rule in the Giants' hiring process that ended with former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll being named head coach. Flores also claimed Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him as much as $100,000 to lose games in 2019 for better draft positioning, i.e., tanking -- while naming Denver Broncos executive John Elway in the lawsuit as well.
Moments after that news landed, with rumors of other coaches potentially joining the suit, Jackson made his own claims against the Cleveland Browns and owner Jimmy Haslam, an organization he once coached.
Jackson, who took the lead role in Cleveland in 2016, departed just over two years later with a record of 3-36-1 that included an 0-16 season in 2017. Currently employed as head football coach at Grambling University, Jackson began with what was a simply and mostly innocuous reply to the news, but things escalated rapidly from there.
"Well, Jimmy Haslam was happy while we kept losing," Jackson said, via Twitter.
The 56-year-old was immediately attacked for his implication, but he didn't back down, instead pushing his assertions that much more aggressively. When a user on Twitter told Jackson that had Haslam offered $100,000 for each loss, Jackson would "be on the Forbes List," the Grambling head coach fired back with a sharpened stick.
The concept of tanking has long been an annual exercise for fans of the NFL (and sports in general when teams seemingly have nothing to gain but a higher draft pick for fielding more losses), but intentional tanking by organizations would strike at the integrity of the respective league -- putting the NFL's Shield on trial. The league immediately replied to Flores' accusations as "without merit," prior to launching an investigation to determine if that's true, but while they're fighting on that front, they'll have to contend with Jackson's (and potentially others to come) as well.
Additionally, this isn't the first time Jackson has posted an accusation -- veiled or otherwise -- against Haslam on the matter, having also done so on Jan. 30, after the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Jackson congratulated the Bengals and was then told by a Twitter user "if only you could have done that for the Browns," to which Jackson replied, succinctly.
"They didn't want me to!" he said last month.
That would mean Jackson has been trying to knock on this particular door prior to Flores kicking it open, versus piggybacking on the latter's claims and, in his thread of replies/allegations from Feb. 1, he made it clear this isn't the first time he's spoken up about his experience with intentional tanking in the NFL; specifically with the Browns.
"Nah, I didn't stay quiet!" Jackson said. "Nobody wanted to listen. If I'm lying, tell them to prove I am and then you guys can break the internet. But if it's true, are you just gonna keep dismissing this like everything else?
"... Not bitter at all. Doing well. I just get tired of watch my brothers get played, and you people believe the narratives. Stop with that.
"Go seek the truth then. If what I'm saying is a lie, prove me as a liar and bitter. Bet you they say, 'NO COMMENT!'
"... It's interesting that people become losers for telling the truth. I'm suppose to go hide and be quiet? NO! It's dead wrong what happens to minority coaches. Where suppose to take it and shut up? Not anymore. ENOUGH!"
The Browns have since responded to Jackson's claim, saying: "The recent comments by Hue Jackson and his representatives relating to his tenure as our head coach are completely fabricated. Any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false."
Of course, Jackson is not accusing every owner of undermining the integrity of the game, but instead wants to help root out he feels have no place in the league -- for reasons that span from the treatment of minority coaches to new allegations of intentional tanking and, seemingly, a whole lot in-between.
"If you knew the truth you would swallow everything in your mouth," Jackson told one Twitter user. "Enough. Truth just starting to seep out of what really happens in the NFL. Trust me there are some great owners out there and there are some people you better dig deeper and see the truth."
At this point, that's precisely what most football fans -- along with reputable coaches and executives around the NFL -- are waiting to see come out: the truth, however it may look. And as the NFL is challenged to find it in New York, Miami and Denver as well, they'll likely have to throw Haslam and the Browns into any investigation they launch into the matter.