• Sydney Orr

Brian Flores Takes A Stand Against the NFL


Photo: Adam Glanzman


Black History Month 2022 has begun with a bang! Former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores, filed a 58-page class action complaint in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the NFL, the New York Giants, the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos, and all remaining NFL teams named as “John Doe Teams” on Tuesday, February 1, 2022.[1] The complaint alleges Title VII violations by the League and its teams, and seeks class action status, thereby allowing a large group of similarly affected individuals to come together under one lawsuit against the NFL.


Brian Flores’ Complaint

In his complaint, Brian Flores alleges four major claims. First, Flores claims Dolphins’ Owner, Stephen Ross, attempted to bribe him to intentionally lose games during the 2019 season. According to the complaint, Stephen Ross offered Flores $100,000 for every game lost during the 2019 season with the hopes of having a losing record to improve the team’s draft position.[2] The Dolphins ultimately finished with a 5-11 record and picked fifth in the 2020 draft.[3]Flores later learned from Dolphins’ General Manager, Chris Grier, that he failed to complete the task.[4] Purportedly, Ross was angry with him for compromising the team’s efforts to tank the season.[5]


Second, Flores asserts Stephen Ross attempted to have him tamper with Tom Brady at the end of the 2019 season.[6] Ross invited Flores to dinner on his yacht, but unbeknownst to Flores, the dinner was supposed to serve as a meeting between Flores and Brady. Once aware of the setup, Flores declined the meeting to avoid violating the NFL’s tampering rules.[7] Allegedly, “[f]rom that point forward, Mr. Flores was ostracized and ultimately” fired in January 2022.[8] Out of a job, Brian Flores began interviewing with other teams with hopes of becoming a head coach elsewhere.


Third, Flores claims the New York Giants conducted a sham interview with him during the 2022 off-season. The suit states the Giants made the decision to hire new Head Coach Brian Daboll prior to interviewing Brian Flores and disclosed that decision to third parties.[9] Flores learned about the hiring decision when Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick, accidentally sent Flores a text message congratulating him for receiving the position.[10] Both Flores and Daboll worked under Belichick with the Patriots.[11] As included in the complaint and shown below, Belichick believed that he was texting the other Brian when he sent his well wishes.[12]


Photo: Flores v. The National Football League, et. al., Class Action Complaint at 7, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL


Brian Flores details in the complaint “on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, [he] was forced to sit through a dinner with Joe Schoen, the Giant’s new General Manager, knowing that the Giants had already selected Mr. Daboll.”[13] Even worse, the next day Flores interviewed extensively for a job he already knew was filled, simply so that the Giants could demonstrate to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, that the team had complied with the Rooney Rule.[14] However, conducting a sham interview violates the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule was enacted in 2003 to increase diversity in coaching and front office positions in the NFL. It requires organizations to interview minority candidates for vacant positions and maintain records of the interviews to be given to the league office at the Commissioner’s request.[15] In response to the suit, the Giants stated that Brian Flores was in the conversation to be team’s head coach “until the eleventh hour.”[16] However, the statement did not deny the claims that Brian Daboll had already been selected to fill the head coach vacancy prior Flores’ interview.


Fourth and finally, Flores asserts the Broncos allegedly only interviewed Brian Flores to comply with the Rooney Rule. In 2019 Brian Flores interviewed with the Denver Broncos for their Head Coach vacancy.[17] The suit states that former General Manager, John Elway; Chief Executive Officer, Joe Ellis; and other members of the Broncos’ front office arrived at Flores’ interview an hour late and hungover.[18] When they arrived “they looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.”[19] At that moment, it was clear to Flores that the interview was conducted solely to satisfy the Rooney Rule.[20]


What happens next?

The Rooney Rule’s was implemented almost 20 years ago, yet there is only one Black Head Coach currently employed in the NFL: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.[21] Tomlin, who has been with the Steelers for 15 years, has maintained a winning record every season. This illustrates the standard of excellence that Black coaches must meet, despite their counterparts with average records retaining their positions year after year.


Photo: Jeremy Fowler, https://twitter.com/JFowlerESPN/status/1488670383624577024?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet


Marcus Spears, former NFL player and current analyst for ESPN’s NFL Live, stated on air, “the fact that you have to have a rule to interview minority coaches is a problem.” He continued, “the seed and foundation” of the problem is that the League must “save face” and “create the idea that everyone is equal in the NFL.” Finally, he added, “NFL owners make decisions as to who will be coaches and they have no incentive to hire minority coaches.” Thus, the onus needs to be on NFL team owners. Brian Flores agrees. Included among the requested relief in the suit are incentives for the retention of Black coaches and front office staff, and for the League to source black investors to become potential team owners.[22]


Flores faces an impossible task: how can “one person [topple] a formerly impenetrable American institution from the inside[?]”[23] Flores has a high standard of proof to pass before he can stand a chance at winning his case. Flores already has evidence of his allegations against the Giants.[24] Also, the presentation of the case as a class action may help. If Brian Flores can get both former and current NFL head coaches, coordinators, and position coaches to not only join the suit, but to provide evidence of the allegations it contains, there may be a chance of success and change in the NFL. However, it will take coaches of strength and character who are willing to sacrifice their careers, like Brian Flores, for these changes to occur. Hue Jackson, a former NFL head coach, has already answered the call and offered support. Will others join the fight?

Photo: Hue Jackson, https://twitter.com/huejack10




References:

[1] Tyler Conway, Brian Flores Lawsuit Alleges NFL Racism, Reveals Details of Head Coach Searches, Bleacher Report (February 1, 2022), https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10025574-brian-flores-sues-nfl-teams-says-brian-daboll-was-hired-by-giants-before-interview

[2] James Dator, The 4 most explosive allegations from Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL, SB Nation (February 1, 2022), https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2022/2/1/22913094/brian-flores-lawsuit-nfl-bill-belichick-text-messages-stephen-ross-tanking-john-elway-hungover

[3] Conway, supra.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] NFL.com wire report, Former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sues NFL, three teams alleging racist hiring practices, NFL (February 1, 2022), https://www.nfl.com/news/former-dolphins-head-coach-brian-flores-sues-nfl-three-teams-alleging-racist-hir

[7] Id.

[8] Flores v. The National Football League, et. al., Class Action Complaint at 6, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL

[9] Id. at 7.

[10]Id.

[11] Jason Reid, Brian Flores’ lawsuit shines a brutal light on the NFL’s hiring practices, The Undefeated (February 1, 2022), https://theundefeated.com/features/brian-flores-lawsuit-shines-a-brutal-light-on-the-nfls-hiring-practices/

[12] Flores at 7, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL

[13] Id.

[14] The Athletic Staff, Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores files discrimination lawsuit against NFL, Giants and others, The Athletic (February 1, 2022), https://theathletic.com/news/former-dolphins-coach-brian-flores-files-discrimination-lawsuit-against-nfl-giants-and-others/B53N44snbIPT/

[15] Reid, supra.

[16] Mike Garafolo, https://twitter.com/MikeGarafolo/status/1488624676431609861

[17] Flores at 8, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL

[18] Conway, supra.

[19] Flores at 8, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL

[20] Id.

[21] Joe Pantorno, Former Dolphins coach, Giants candidate Brian Flores suing NFL in race class action, amNY (February 1, 2022), https://www.amny.com/news/brian-flores-suing-nfl-race-class-action-giants/

[22] Dator, supra.

[23] Reid, supra.

[24] Flores at 7, https://www.scribd.com/document/556303443/Brian-Flores-lawsuit-against-NFL