This is not a drill, the NFL is being taken to court for its abysmal record when it comes to diversity in hiring for leadership positions. A class action lawsuit has been filed and the class representative on the lawsuit, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
The impetus for this lawsuit is because of either New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s biggest mistake in his coaching career, or his greatest contribution to the game, depending on who is looking at this situation. According to the suit, Belichick sent a text to his former defensive coordinator, Flores. It was to inform him that he’d heard that Flores was going to get the job as the New York Giants new head coach. Flores was shocked, because his in person interview had been scheduled, but had yet to take place.
Belichick assured Flores that he heard from the Buffalo Bills and Giants that “you are their guy.” That message got Flores’ spidey senses tingling. He then asked Belichick if this message was for a different former Patriots assistant also named Brian, Brian Daboll. Belichick realized that he had made a mistake and his next reply began: “I fucked this up.”
The Giants officially hired Daboll on Jan. 28. Belichick’s reply is the lead to the 58-page lawsuit. The news of the suit was broken by The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Weprin.
The rest of the lawsuit lays out in detail how Flores and his attorneys believe that he has been wronged by the Giants, the Dolphins, and the Denver Broncos by not taking him seriously in 2019, and every other team in the NFL. It also lays out the NFL’s systemic problem with racism dating back to when there was gentlemen’s agreement among league owners in the 1930s to not bring in anymore Black players. This was reportedly admitted to by former Los Angeles Rams general manager Charles M. Walsh when the team was trying to move to L.A. from Cleveland in the 1940s. The suit lists the NFL’s racial problems, and general problems with discrimination and bigotry in chronological order, all the way up to those Jon Gruden emails that were discovered last year.
The lawsuit also presents data that shows Black head coaches are 3.5 times more likely to be fired than White ones, and cites data from the NFL’s 2021 Diversity and Inclusion report that states 116 white former head coaches have been re-hired as a head coach or offensive or defensive coordinator since 1963. In that same period of time only 21 former Black head coaches had been offered one of those positions after being fired.
There’s also information in that lawsuit that counters a report from the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, in which his sources claimed that Flores was power hungry and difficult to work with, and also didn’t care too much for team owner Stephen Ross. The lawsuit accuses Ross of offering Flores $100,000 for every game lost during the 2019 season so the Dolphins could tank and receive the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Flores refused, and the team finished much better than they were predicted to by winning five games — that doesn’t sound like a lot, but remember it wasn’t absurd to believe they would lose every game that year. Ross is also accused of inviting Flores out to lunch in 2020 and not telling him that a quarterback would be there that Ross wanted to sign that Flores didn’t. Flores left the yacht immediately and supposedly that is why he was considered difficult to work with.
Flores and the Dolphins finished the 2020 season with a .625 winning percentage and the 2021 season with a .529 winning percentage. They did not make the playoff in any of Flores’ seasons as head coach. He was fired at season’s end.
The Giants released a statement that says while they are happy with their decision to hire Daboll, Flores was a legitimate candidate for their head coaching position up until the “11th hour.” The NFL has also released a statement saying that the accusations made against it are “without merit,” and that diversity is core to everything that the league does.
One could look at this situation and say, “lawsuits get filed all the time, just Google Al Davis.” However, In the early 2000s, attorney Johnny Cochran was going to sue the NFL for its poor diversity in hiring coaches. The threat of that lawsuit is the reason that the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and front office openings, even exists. It’s reasonable to believe that 20 years later the NFL would go to great lengths to avoid this lawsuit.
This will be quite an interesting case to monitor, and something commissioner Roger Goodell will begrudgingly have to address during Super Bowl week. For Flores, this may very well mean the end of his coaching career. He has put his name on the lawsuit that the NFL has spent most of the new millennium trying to avoid. It’s reasonable to believe that the league owners won’t look too fondly on him after this. Teams have refused to sign Colin Kaepernick for kneeling to protest of police brutality and murder, despite poor quarterback play littering our televisions every regular season.
Flores released a statement on his lawsuit and how it’ll impact his NFL prospects in the future.
“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. In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game I love and has done so much for my family and me,” Flores said. “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.”
Flores coached in the NFL for 13 years and decided that enough was enough. He is going to take an unprecedented stand against something that he believes is wrong and acknowledged in a statement that this may cost him his career. Much kudos to him for taking a stand that he believes in. What pushed him over the edge, however, is wild. Of all the questions that have been surrounding the NFL’s hiring practices for many years, what might finally make the league have to answer them, is a mistake by a person whose entire image is built around attention to detail.