Brian Flores Alleges NFL Is “Rife With Racism” in Discrimination Lawsuit

"In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation," reads a filing from the ex-Dolphins coach's lawyers

Brian Flores looks on from the sideline while coaching the Miami Dolphins
Brian Flores looks on from the sideline while coaching the Miami Dolphins.
Cliff Hawkins/Getty

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, the major storylines making waves in the NFL have nothing to do with the game that’s set to take place between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams on February 13.

A day that started out with Tom Brady announcing his retirement from the NFL without mentioning the Patriots ended with ex-Patriots coach Brian Flores suing the NFL and its 32 teams alleging racist hiring practices that discriminate against Black coaches. The suit, which names the league, the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos as well as “John Doe teams 1-29” as defendants, uses texts from current Patriots coach Bill Belichick as its main evidence.

The texts show Belichick congratulating Flores on getting hired as the coach of the New York Giants, mistakenly believing he was texting with Brian Daboll (another former Patriots coach who most recently served as the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills). Belichick’s mistake isn’t the issue. The problem is he knew the Giants had already decided to hire Daboll even though Flores hadn’t interviewed with the team yet. If the texts are accurate, Flores’s interview with the Giants — which took place after Belichick had already learned Daboll would be hired — was a sham and ostensibly only scheduled so the team could comply with the Rooney Rule, a standard requiring a minimum number of minority candidates to be interviewed for a coaching vacancy before a hiring can be made. The Giants did hire Daboll.

“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 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,” the filing reads. “In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation. 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.”

Bad as that sounds, some of the allegations in the lawsuit are even worse. Among them:

  • Miami owner Stephen Ross offered to pay Flores an extra $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season because he wanted the Dolphins to lose enough games to get the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
  • Ross tried to get Flores to recruit “a prominent quarterback” who was under contract to another team in violation of NFL tampering rules.
  • When Flores was set to interview with Denver Bronco executives about taking over as the team’s head coach in 2019, then-GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis and showed up an hour late to the interview looking disheveled, and it was obvious they had been drinking heavily the night before. Based on their conduct, it was obvious Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired as coach.

After the lawsuit was made public, Flores released 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,” he 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.”

For Flores, who was regarded as one of the best young coaches in the NFL and seemingly did not deserve to be fired by the Dolphins, there are only a few vacancies for head coach left. The NFL better hope he fills one of them.

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