Former Patriots assistant and ex-Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, alleging they have engaged in racist hiring practices against Black coaching candidates.
In the lawsuit, Flores specifically named the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos, as well as other unidentified defendants. Among other allegations, Flores claims he sat for a sham interview with the Giants last week, an interview he says the franchise executed only to comply with the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least two external, minority candidates for head coaching vacancies.
“It has been nearly 20 years since the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview diverse candidates for vacant Head Coach, General Manager, Coordinator and other senior positions,” a statement written by Flores’ counsel read. “However, as the (complaint) makes clear, the Rooney Rule is not working. As alleged, management does not conduct these interviews in good faith, which creates a stigma that these Black candidates are only interviewed to comply with the Rooney Rule and not because of their qualifications.”
To prove the Giants discriminatory practices, Flores cited a text message exchange he allegedly shared with Pats coach Bill Belichick before his Jan. 27 interview. Belichick supposedly texted Flores congratulations, mistakenly believing the recipient was then Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who later got the job.
Prior to Flores’ interview, the only external minority candidate the Giants had interviewed was Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
“Sorry — I (expletive)ed this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that,” Belichick wrote.
In a lawsuit, Brian Flores is alleging these texts Bill Belichick sent mistakenly to him instead of Brian Daboll tipped him off to a sham head-coaching interview with the Giants. https://t.co/B5yhc9P2a9 pic.twitter.com/lLI5TWoeE9
— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) February 1, 2022
Flores was fired in Miami last month after going 24-25 over three seasons. He finished his tenure with back-to-back winning seasons, but failed to make the playoffs. After Flores was fired and Houston parted ways with first-year coach David Culley, the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin became the only Black head coach left in the NFL.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The league issued a strong rebuttal to Flores’ lawsuit Tuesday evening.
”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,” the league’s statement read. “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.”
In the suit, Flores also contends Dolphins owner owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every game he lost during the 2019 season, a time the front office shed most of its most talented players and stockpiled draft picks. Flores says he refused, despite Ross’ desire to improve the team’s draft position. He also alleges Ross pressured him to recruit a “prominent quarterback” after the 2019 season, a violation of league rules.
“Undeterred, in the winter of 2020, Mr. Ross invited Mr. Flores onto a yacht for lunch,” the lawsuit read. “Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that the prominent quarterback was ‘conveniently’ arriving at the marina. Obviously, Mr. Ross had attempted to ‘set up’ a purportedly impromptu meeting between Mr. Flores and the prominent quarterback. Mr. Flores refused the meeting and left the yacht immediately.
“After the incident, Mr. Flores was treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
A year earlier, Flores interviewed for the Broncos’ heading job. Flores claims John Elway, then Denver’s general manager, and another team executive showed up an hour late and looked “completely disheveled. … It was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before.”
The suit continued: “It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job.”
The suit is a class-action complaint, opening the door for other coaches to join Flores as plaintiffs. It also compared the NFL’s management structure to that of a plantation.
“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” the lawsuit said. “Its 32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black. The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-Black workforce put their bodies on the line every Sunday, taking vicious hits and suffering debilitating injuries to their bodies and their brains while the NFL and its owners reap billions of dollars.”
In response to Flores’ claims about their head-coaching search, the Giants released a statement Tuesday evening.
“We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll,” the statement said. “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.”