Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos and the Dolphins claiming racial discrimination in the league's hiring process for coaches and executives.
Flores filed the suit in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday. In it he accuses Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering him $100,000 for every loss in an effort to tank for the No. 1 draft pick during the 2019 NFL season, and includes texts he alleges are from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick demonstrating that the Giants conducted an interview with Flores while knowing that they intended to hire Brian Daboll as head coach.
Lawsuit: NFL 'managed much like a plantation'
The suit alleges that the Giants interviewed Flores simply to satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule mandate requiring that teams interview minority candidates.
Brian Flores' class action lawsuit against the NFL - he is being represented by the same firm that represented Harvey Weinstein victims and former Fox News employees in their discrimination cases https://t.co/1EqJ7qDA4A pic.twitter.com/jrSjm12XHT
— Michele Steele (@MicheleSteele) February 1, 2022
From the lawsuit:
While racial barriers have been eroded in many areas, Defendant the National Football League (“NFL” or the “League”) lives in a time of the past. As described throughout this Class Action Complaint, 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 (the “Teams”) 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.
As such, in the face of the risks associated with combating racism and injustice, and in particular standing up to organizations as powerful as the NFL and its Teams, Mr. Flores has determined that the only way to effectuate real change is through the Courts, where the NFL’s conduct can be judged by a jury of Mr. Flores’ peers. A judgment that is long overdue.
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.
NFL responds to Flores lawsuit
The NFL responded with a statement Tuesday afternoon disputing the suit as "without merit" while defending its hiring practices:
The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations. 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.
Alleged text exchange with Bill Belichick
Perhaps the most damning of the accusations in the suit involve Belichick and the Giants. The suit includes a screenshot of a text exchange Flores says he had with Belichick in which the Patriots head coach allegedly mistakenly texted Flores that he was going to get the Giants job when they were in fact hiring Daboll. The exchange allegedly happened three days prior to Flores interviewing with the Giants.
The text exchange reads as follows, per the suit:
Belichick: Sounds like you have landed — congrats!!
Flores: Did you hear something I didn't hear?
Flores: I interview on Thursday. I think I have a shot at it.
Belichick: Got it — I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!!
Flores: That's definitely what I want! I hope you're right coach. Thank you. ... Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure.
Belichick: Sorry — I f***ed up . I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that. BB
Flores: Thanks Bill.
The Giants released a statement on Tuesday afternoon responding to the suit claiming that "Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour."
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 1, 2022
Flores spent 15 seasons as a scout and assistant in New England under Belichick before joining the Dolphins as head coach in 2019. The Dolphins fired Flores on Jan. 10 after three seasons. It was an unexpected move following a 9-8 Dolphins campaign that included a seven-game winning streak.
Flores was was widely presumed to be a top candidate for multiple head coaching vacancies, the Giants among them. The Giants hired Daboll on Friday. He was previously the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills.
Flores acknowledges risk to his career
Flores released a statement on Tuesday through his lawyers separate from the lawsuit acknowledging the risk the lawsuit presents to his career.
"I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me," Flores wrote. "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."
Here is a statement from Brian Flores via his lawyers: pic.twitter.com/SnOljEx4Of
— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) February 1, 2022
Flores: Dolphins painted me as 'angry Black man'
The suit claims that "the writing had been on the wall" for his termination from the Dolphins since he started the job in 2019. The suit states that Ross "told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss" as the team sought to land the top selection in a draft that included quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
The suit states that Flores "refused his owner’s directive to 'tank,'" prompting general manager Chris Grier to tell Flores "that 'Steve' was 'mad' that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was 'compromising [the team’s] draft position.'"
The Dolphins went 5-11 in Flores' first season and selected Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the draft. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Burrow — who's playing in next week's Super Bowl — No. 1 overall.
Surprise meeting with 'prominent quarterback' on yacht
The suit also alleges that "Mr. Ross began to pressure Mr. Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules" following the 2019 season. It describes a scene in which Ross allegedly invited Flores to his yacht for a lunch meeting. When Flores arrived, he was informed that the "prominent quarterback" was also joining the meeting, per the suit, prompting Flores to refuse the meeting and leave "immediately."
The suit claims that from that point on "Mr. Flores was ostracized and ultimately he was fired." The "prominent quarterback" is not named in the suit. The suit claims that the Dolphins subsequently defamed Flores in media and league circles as difficult to work with after firing him.
"This is reflective of an all too familiar 'angry black man' stigma that is often casted upon Black men who are strong in their morals and convictions while white men are coined as passionate for those very same attributes," the suit reads.
The Miami Dolphins released a statement Tuesday afternoon that they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization."
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) February 1, 2022
Suit: Broncos met with Flores after 'drinking heavily the night before'
The suit alleges that his interview with the Giants wasn't the first "sham" interview he conducted in the NFL. Per the suit, Flores met with Denver Broncos brass including then-general manager John Elway and president Joe Ellis in 2019. Per the suit, Elway and Ellis showed up to the meeting an hour late, looking "completely disheveled."
"It was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before," the suit reads.
The Broncos ultimately hired Vic Fangio while Flores landed in Miami.
Broncos respond to Flores lawsuit too
The Broncos issued a statement calling the allegations "blatantly false" and vouching for the professionalism and legitimacy of the interview with Flores:
In a statement, the Denver Broncos say Brian Flores's allegations against the team are "blatantly false." pic.twitter.com/YMrMrkDGQa
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) February 1, 2022
Lawsuit cites Colin Kaepernick
The lawsuit also cites ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's exit from the NFL amid his protests of police brutality and social injustice as another example of alleged racism in hiring practices that extends to quarterbacks.
"Against the backdrop of the League’s history, this conduct remains an appalling example of the League’s continued problems with race," the lawsuit states.