Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and its 32 teams Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination within the league’s hiring process. File Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
Feb. 2 (UPI) — Brian Flores, who sued the NFL and its teams for alleged racial discrimination against him and other Black coaches, was “humiliated” by the league’s hiring process, but still wants to be an NFL coach, he said Wednesday.
Flores made the comments during an appearance on CBS Mornings. The former Miami Dolphins coach was fired in January after his third season.
He sued the NFL and its 32 teams Tuesday through a class-action lawsuit filed jointly by Wigdor LLP and Elefterakis, Elefterakis & Panek in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.
The lawsuit claims that the NFL’s hiring process, as it pertains to the “hiring and retention” of Black head coaches, coordinators and general managers “remains rife with racism.”
The NFL and several teams named in the lawsuit denied the claims Tuesday with respective statements. Flores said there are still two NFL teams he planned to interview with. He notified those teams of his intention to file the lawsuit.
“I absolutely want to coach in this league, but I also know I’m not the only one with a story,” Flores told CBS Mornings.
“People have come before me and there are others with similar stories. It’s hard to speak out. You are making some sacrifices, but this is bigger than football and bigger than coaching.”
Flores, 40, spent 15 seasons with the New England Patriots before he received his first job as an NFL head coach in 2019 with the Dolphins. He went 5-11 in his first season. Flores’ Dolphins went 10-6 and 9-8 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Several head coaching slots remain empty after teams dismissed coaches from the 2021 season, but Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the league’s lone Black head coach. Flores’ lawsuit said the NFL, which includes a player-base that is roughly 70% Black, is “racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation.”
Flores said he understands the risks created by his lawsuit, when it comes to the likelihood of being hired to coach. The lawsuit also cites issues with the NFL’s Rooney Rule. The rule requires teams to interview two minority coaching candidates for head coaching roles.
Flores said he thought he was interviewed to “check a box” so that teams could comply with the rule. His lawsuit features a text message conversation he had with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The conversation shows Belichick sending a congratulatory message to Flores for being hired by the Giants, even though he had yet to interview for the job.
Flores then informed Belichick that he sent the message to the wrong person. Belichick said he intended to send the message to Brian Daboll, who was officially hired last week.
“It was a range of emotions: Humiliation, disbelief, anger,” Flores said. “I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am in football to become a head coach. For 18 years in the league, to go on what was a sham interview [with the Giants], I was hurt.”
The lawsuit also cites a 2019 interview Flores did with the Denver Broncos for their past head coach opening. Flores said he believed that interview was only granted to comply with the Rooney rule and that the team had no intention “to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job.”
Flores said he was later dismissed by the Dolphins because of his noncompliance to talk — or lose games on purpose — during the 2019 season to improve the franchise’s position in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He said he was also unwilling to “recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of league tampering rules, at the request of team owner Stephen Ross.
The lawsuit alleges that Ross offered Flores $100,000 for each loss that season. The Dolphins went 5-11 in 2019, which resulted in the No. 5 overall draft slot in 2020. They selected former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the pick. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow went No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals went 4-11-1 in 2019.
Flores also went on CNN on Wednesday and said that his move to sue the NFL will be “worth it” if it creates change in the hiring process, even if he never gets another coaching job.
“I love coaching football,” Flores told CNN. “I’m called to coach football. I still want to coach. But this is bigger than coaching and bigger than me.
“The numbers speak for themselves as far as the hiring, firing and the lack of opportunities for minority and Black head coaches and executives in the NFL. We need things to change.”