Former Miami Dolphins head coach, Brian Flores, was fired last month despite back-to-back winning seasons. Flores is now accusing the NFL and its teams of systemic racism in a proposed class action, he is seeking to represent Black coaches and general managers allegedly passed over in the hiring process.
The suit was filed in Manhattan federal court and claims that Flores, who was considered a leading candidate for open head coaching positions after his exit from the Dolphins, learned through a mistaken text message from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick that the New York Giants decided to hire a white coach instead. The new coach, Brain Daboll from the Buffalo Bills, was hired just three days before Flores was set to interview with the team.
The filed complaint includes screenshots of the text exchange in which Belichick congratulated Flores on landing the Giants gig, only to later realize his mistake.
“I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy,” Belichick texted, according to Flores’ complaint. “Hope it works out if you want it to!!”
“Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure,” Flores later responded.
“Sorry – I fucked this up. I double checked & misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB.” Said Belichick.
Flores further claimed to have sat in an “extensive interview” for the Giants job with general manager Joe Schoen, even though he knew he wouldn’t be offered the position. The interview was “held for no reason other than for the Giants to demonstrate falsely to the league commissioner Roger Goodell and the public at large that it was in compliance with the Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for open head coaching jobs.
Flores was controversially fired by the Dolphins last month after three years on the job. He led the Dolphins to a 9-8 record this season, going 8-1 in the final nine games to secure the team’s first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003.
The suit alleged that teams aren’t giving proper considerations to Black coaches for open positions and are often quick to fire even successful coaches. Further, the suit claimed that black coaches are not given second chances similar to that given to white coaches. The suit specifically refers to the Giants, Dolphins and Denver Broncos.
Despite an NFL player pool that is 70% Black, out of 32 teams, only one employs a Black head coach, only six employ a Black general manager, and zero have a Black majority owner, the suit points out.
"This is not by chance," the suit said.
The proposed class action seeks to represent Black head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches and general managers, and it seeks to enforce a series of changes to ensure Black hiring candidates receive proper consideration.
The Rooney Rule, however well-intentioned, "has failed to increase the number of Black head coaches in the league," the suit claims
It is "not working because management is not doing the interviews in good-faith, and it therefore creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess," the suit says.
Flores claims to have faced stat in more than just one "sham" interview, allowing teams to comply with the rule, citing an interview with the Denver Broncos. Hall of fame quarterback and then-general manger John Elway, along with CEO Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview, looking "disheveled" and making it "obvious" they had been "drinking heavily the night before," the suit alleged.
He further alleged that he was mistreated by Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, who attempted to force him to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of NFL tampering rules and was mad at him for winning games in his first season since it hurt the team's draft position.
"Indeed, during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for each game lost that year," the suit said.
The suit also pointed to the controversial use of race-based norms in assessing claims by former players for payouts from the concussion settlement — in which Black players were assumed to have started out with lower cognitive functioning, thereby making it harder to qualify for payments — as evidence of pervasive discrimination.
"This is the very definition of racism — the assumption that someone is not as smart as another person because of the color of his or her skin," the suit said. "It also perhaps explains why the NFL and its teams are so loath to hire" Black coaches and GMs "just as for years the league discriminated against Black quarterbacks."
The NFL initially argued that such race-norming was developed by neuropsychologists to address bias but has since committed to removing its use in the concussion settlement and to pushing for changes more broadly.
All four head coaching openings that have been filled this year have been filled by white candidates so far, including Daboll with the Giants. There are five other head coaching vacancies yet to be filled, including for the Dolphins.
The NFL issued a statement Tuesday, saying it "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."