NFL

Flores: NFL at 'fork in the road' with hiring practices

By Sports Desk February 02, 2022

Brian Flores believes the NFL is at a "fork in the road" with its hiring practices after the former Miami Dolphins head coach filed a class action lawsuit against the league.

Flores alleged in the suit that the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".

He is suing the league along with teams at whose hands he claims he experienced racism, naming the Dolphins along with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".

Amid the allegations made by Flores is that he inadvertently learned he had failed to get the Giants head coach job last week before his interview, which the lawsuit claims was "a sham" that "humiliated" him. 

The NFL has a 'Rooney Rule' in place. It requires all teams seeking a new head coach "to interview at least one or more diverse candidates".

The suit also alleged that Flores "was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule" by the Broncos in 2019 and was never intended to be "a legitimate candidate".

In addition, it claims Flores was offered $100,000 for every Dolphins loss in 2019 by owner Stephen Ross, who was said to be angered by the team's competitiveness compromising their draft position. Miami fired Flores at the end of the 2021 season despite the team finishing with a winning record in successive seasons.

The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", saying it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores also rejected his allegations.

Speaking alongside his attorneys on CBS Mornings, Flores said: "I love coaching, I'm gifted to coach and I want to coach. This is bigger than coaching, this is much bigger than coaching.

"We filed the lawsuit so that we could create some change. I think we're at a fork in the road right now, we're either going to keep it the way it is, or we're going to go in another direction and actually make some real change where we're actually changing the hearts and minds of those who make decisions to hire head coaches, executives, et cetera."

Asked about the claims he made against the Dolphins and owner Ross, Flores replied: "This game's done a lot for me. I didn't grow up with a lot, this game changed my life.

"To attack the integrity of the game, that's what I felt was happening in that instance and I wouldn't stand for it.

"I think it hurt my standing within the organisation and ultimately was why I was let go."

The suit contains screen grabs of an alleged text message conversation between New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Flores, in which Belichick congratulates Flores on what he believes is an impending appointment, only to realise he was messaging the wrong person, having intended to contact Brian Daboll, who got the Giants job.

During the text exchange, Flores questioned whether Belichick had messaged the correct person, with the Patriots coach having indicated he had inside knowledge on who would land the job. According to the lawsuit's contents, Belichick at this point realised his error and apologised to Flores, who worked for him for 10 years with the Patriots.

"It was a range of emotions, humiliation, disbelief, anger," Flores said of that episode. 

"I have worked so hard to get where I am in football to become a head coach. Put 18 years in this league, and it was, to go on what was going to be a, what felt like and was a sham interview, I was hurt.

"The Rooney Rule is intended to give minorities an opportunity to sit down in front of ownership, but I think what it's turned into is an instance where guys are checking the box.

"I've been on some interviews in the past where I've had that feeling. There's always no way to know for sure, but you know. I know I'm not alone."

The NFL on Wednesday published its response to the suit, which read: ​"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organisations.

"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."

A spokesman for the Giants, Pat Hanlon, was quoted by the New York Times on Tuesday as saying the team was "confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll", adding that Flores was "in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour".

The Broncos have described the various claims against the franchise as "blatantly false" and "baseless and disparaging claims".

Several allegations are made in the suit about Flores' time with the Dolphins, which came to an end only last month.

The Dolphins responded by saying they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organisation".

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