Who thought Tom Brady’s retirement would be the second-biggest NFL story of the day?
The first? Brian Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins just dropped an explosive class-action lawsuit against the NFL and several of its teams, explicitly accusing the league of racial discrimination in how it hires and fires coaches and executives.
Flores, who was among several Black head coaches fired in January during the NFL’s annual ritual of canning coaches after the regular season, alleges that the league’s hiring process–including the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least two nonwhite candidates for head coaching jobs–is a sham. His suit says the league remains “segregated,” is “managed like a plantation” and has a “disingenuous commitment to social equity.”
The bottom line, the suit says, is that Flores, 40, now believes that the only way to change the NFL is to sue, a course of action he acknowledges might end his once-promising coaching career.
From the text of Flores’ lawsuit
While racial barriers have been eroded in many areas, Defendant the National Football League (“NFL” or the “League”) lives in a time of the past. As described throughout this Class Action Complaint, the NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers. Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organizations (the “Teams”) have been given every chance to do the right thing. Rules have been implemented, promises made—but nothing has changed.
In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity. As such, in the face of the risks associated with combating racism and injustice, and in particular standing up to organizations as powerful as the NFL and its Teams, Mr. Flores has determined that the only way to effectuate real change is through the Courts, where the NFL’s conduct can be judged by a jury of Mr. Flores’ peers. A judgment that is long overdue.
Colin Kaepernick tried to tell y’all.
Flores’ lawsuit might be the only thing that puts his Jan. 10 firing by the Dolphins into any context. The franchise canned him after only two seasons, both of which ended in winning records. Players seemed to respond to his coaching, sticking together through losing seven of their first eight games before turning the 2021 season around. He was respected almost universally among NFL coaches.
The only thing stranger than firing a young, winning coach with years ahead of him is what happened next.
Flores had been interviewed for vacant head coaching jobs by several teams including the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. The New York Giants’ gig was also on the table, until Flores got a text from his former boss, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick congratulating him for getting the job. The problem was Flores hadn’t even interviewed yet. Here’s part of the actual text exchange from ol’ Bill, per the lawsuit:
“Sorry – I fucked this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB.” -Bill Belichick informing Plaintiff Brian Flores, three days before his interview with the New York Giants that Brian Daboll had already been selected for the job.
Don’t you hate it when you’re scheduled for a big job interview and somebody mistakenly texts you congratulations meant for the person who’s already been hired? Did I mention there were screenshots? Daboll, of course, got the job and was introduced to the Giants faithful as he parked a pickup truck at the Giants’ East Rutherford, New Jersey, facility and jumping out in a suit with no coat while the temperature was somewhere between 18 degrees and 21 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember that whole Rooney Rule thing? Flores says his experience proves the NFL never took it seriously, even if it had good intentions when it was put in place 20 years ago.
The Rooney Rule may have been well intentioned, although it is hard to attribute benevolence to the NFL given the complete lack of action that it has taken post-Rooney Rule to remedy discrimination that it admits exists. However, well intentioned or not, what is clear is that the Rooney Rule is not working. It is not working because the numbers of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and Quarterback Coaches are not even close to being reflective of the number of Black athletes on the field. The Rooney Rule is also 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 NFL issued a statement calling the lawsuit “without merit.”
Flores’ lawsuit is 58 pages long, with more facts and allegations that we haven’t had time to fully pore over. Look out for more–a lot more–on this story.