Brian Flores lawsuit: Former Dolphins coach sues NFL and teams for discriminatory hiring practices

Brian Flores, former Dolphins coach, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL, its teams, and its teams Tuesday

Brian Flores lawsuit: Former Dolphins coach sues NFL and teams for discriminatory hiring practices

He claims that the league has engaged in discriminatory hiring practices towards Black candidates for coaching and front-office vacancies. The lawsuit also alleges that the league conducted sham interviews under pretense of following Rooney Rule.

The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York . It alleges that the NFL and its players violated Section 1981 of Civil Rights Act of 1866, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Flores is listed as the plaintiff and claims to have acted on behalf of over 40 members of the class: "all Black head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, and quarterbacks coaches as well as general mangers and black candidates for these positions."

These are the allegations

Flores was fired after the 2021 season, despite leading Miami in back-to-back victories. Flores claims that the NFL and its 32 teams behave like a "plantation," in which the owners of the 32 teams are Black, and the league's 70 percent Black players profit. Flores also complains that the league fails to adequately address racism, especially when it comes to hiring and retaining Black coordinators, head coaches and general managers.

Flores claims that Stephen Ross, the Dolphins' owner, asked Flores to "tank the Dolphins" during the 2019 season in order to improve the team’s draft position and secure the No. The Bengals were awarded the No. 1 overall pick, which was ultimately chosen by Joe Burrow of LSU. Flores claimed Ross also offered $100,000 per loss for that year.

"When the Dolphins began winning games due in no small part Mr. Flores coaching, Chris Grier told Mr. Flores that Steve was'mad that Mr. Flores had won games that year because he was 'compromising' the team's draft position.

Flores also claims Ross requested him to violate league rules regarding tampering after the 2019 season in order to recruit a "prominent quarterback" -- reportedly Tom Brady -- to play for Miami Dolphins. Flores claims that Ross invited Flores to lunch on a yacht, where Ross "conveniently" found the quarterback after Flores repeatedly refused to follow these inappropriate directives. Flores said that he "refused to meet" and left the yacht right away.
The Flores were treated with disdain after the incident and Ross was accused of treating Flores with "disdain" throughout the Flores tenure.

Flores also claimed that Flores was being interviewed by the Broncos, and Giants in "sham" interviews in 2019 and 21.

Flores stated that John Elway, the Broncos' general manager at the time, and Joe Ellis, team president/CEO were late for a 2019 interview because they were "completely disheveled" and had consumed a lot of alcohol the night before. The interview was clear that Flores was only interviewed because of the Rooney Rule and that the Broncos did not intend to consider Flores a legitimate candidate for this job.

Flores also included a screenshot of a text conversation with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Flores apparently mistook Flores as Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Flores was supposed to be speaking to Daboll, but Belichick thought he was congratulating Flores on his job. Flores was scheduled to interview with the Giants three days later.

The following are some of the outcomes:

  • Black people should have more influence in the hiring and firing decisions of general managers, head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators positions.

  • Increase objectivity in hiring and terminating general managers, head coaches, and offensive and defensive coordination positions

  • Increase the number and experience of Black offensive/defensive coordinators

  • Incentivize the hiring and retention black general managers, coaches, and offensive and defensive coordinations by offering monetary, draft, and/or other compensation, such as extra salary cap space.

  • Transparency regarding pay for all general mangers, head coaches, and offensive and defensive coordinations

    What the NFL, Giants and other teams said

    After Flores' suit was filed on Tuesday, the NFL, Dolphins and Giants, as well as Broncos, have released the following statements.

    NFL - "The NFL and its clubs are deeply committed in ensuring equitable practices. We continue to make progress in providing equal opportunities across our organizations. Diversity is at the heart of everything we do. Our clubs and our internal leadership team invest more time on these issues than any other. These claims are not valid and we will defend them."
    Dolphins : "We were made aware of this lawsuit by the media reports that were published today. We strongly deny any allegations that we have committed racial discrimination. We are proud of our diversity and inclusion. It is false to suggest that we have acted in an inconsistent manner with the integrity and fairness of the game. "We will withhold further comments on the lawsuit."

    Giants : "We are happy and confident about the process that led to the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed a diverse and impressive group of candidates. Brian Flores was our head coach up until the last minute. We hired the person we believed was the most qualified to become our next head coach.

    Brian Flores's coaching career record

    Flores has a record of 24-25 in Miami after three seasons as a coach. This is a skewed record due to Flores' 5-11 season his first year in charge. He won in 2020 and '21 (11-6 and 9-8 respectively) but missed the NFL playoffs by just one game.

    Flores worked as a scout for the Dolphins before joining the Dolphins.

    What is the Rooney Rule?

    The Rooney Rule, a policy of the NFL that requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates in order to fill head coaching and senior operations positions, is called the NFL's "Rooney Rule." The Rooney Rule is named after Dan Rooney, a former Steelers owner and chairman of the league’s diversity committee.

    This committee was created in 2002 in response to the firings of Black head coaches Tony Dungy of the Buccaneers (Vikings) and Denniss Green of Vikings (Bucaneers). Dungy only lost one season in six years with the Buccaneers. In his last three years in Tampa Bay, Dungy averaged 10 wins per season, making the playoffs every year.

    After a 2005 Vikings season of 5-10, Green was fired. This was Green's first loss in Minnesota in 10 years. It followed three seasons with regular-season records that were 15-1, 10-6, and 11-5.

    After several Black candidates pulled out of interviews due to the perceived settlement by the Lions on the hiring of Steve Mariucci, former 49ers coach, the NFL fined them $200,000. It has been further criticised as ineffective, as many Black coordinators, including Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, are still unable to get head coaching jobs.

    Black coaches in the NFL

    Only one Black NFL head coach is currently in existence (3%): Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. The NFL only has four Black offensive coordinators (12%), 11 Black defensive coordinators (34%), eight special team coordinators (25%), and three Black quarterback coaches (9%) Only six Black general managers are employed by the league (19%). From 2003-19, the league had 22 minority head coaches before Flores was hired by the Dolphins.

    Since then, there have not been any Black head coaches.

    What's next?

    Although the timeline is unclear, the NFL will be able to respond to the allegations, file motions to dismissal or arbitrate, much like they did with Jon Gruden, former Raiders head coach. They plan to "vigorously defend these claims."

    Flores may take a different route, but legal processes must be followed, as Michael McCann, a Sportico legal expert, explains.