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Former Miami Dolphins coach sues NFL

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three other teams, the Giants, Broncos and Dolphins, citing racial discirimination in hiring practices in a class action lawsuit. 

The lawsuit is 58-pages and was filed in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, Feb. 1

Flores was fired by the Dolphins at the end of the season despite going 8-1 in the final nine games and leading the Dolphins to consecutive winning seasons. They finished the season 9-8, and last year 10-6. This was the Dolphins’ first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003.

Yes, his record in three seasons was only 24-25, but he was loved by his players and brought leadership to a franchise that has been pretty mediocre. His firing was definitely surprising to many people as it seemed the Dolphins were making some progress. Even though his record wasn’t great, finishing a season so strong is encouraging to the fanbase, players and normally the organization. 

In the suit he said he  was “humiliated in the process as the New York Giants subjected him to a sham interview in an attempt to appear to provide a Black candidate with a legitimate chance at obtaining the job.”

He also alleges that in 2019 Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to incentivize him with $100,000 for every loss that season, basically he wanted him to tank in order to get a higher draft pick.

Ross also allegedly pressured Flores at the end of the 2019 season into recruiting a “prominent quarterback”. Flores refused to do so as doing this would violate the NFL’s tampering rules. According to the suit, Ross invited Flores onto a yacht for lunch the next year and had that quarterback there for an unplanned meeting. Flores said he refused to go with the meeting and left.

One of the bigger allegations in the suit is about the New York Giants. Flores interviewed with the Giants last month for their head coach position. He alleges that the interview was a sham and was only done to comply with the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rules went into effect in 2003 and requires teams to interview candidates of color for coaching and senior operation vacancies. Flores even gave receipts to this alleged sham interview sharing screenshots of a text conversation with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In the screenshot, Belichick is texting with Flores and congratulates him on getting the Giants job. However, Flores was still traveling for the interview that was going to take place later, and he realized that Belichick accidentally texted him instead of Brian Daboll, the person who would get the Giants head-coaching job. 

The NFL has unsurprisingly vehemently denied all of the charges

A league that is overwhelmingly made up of African American/POC athletes should not have such a lack of diversity in coaching and positions of leadership. However, the NFL is an owner-run league and only Shad Khan, the Jacksonville Jaguars owner, is the only majority owner that is not white. There are a lot of black assistant coaches that are long-overdue in getting a shot at being a head coach, yet never do. Names like Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwhich are constantly circulated every year, have a resume better than many coaches,  yet never get hired. There really is no other reason than them being black that has left them on the sidelines during the coaching-hiring cycle.

When the Rooney Rules was first established there were three black head coaches, now there is only one in the Steelers Mike Tomlin. Although this rule was created with good intentions, it’s clear that many teams overlook it and interview a few minority coaches just to not raise suspicions. Owners use the rule to make it seem like they care about diversity and inclusion

I mean it’s hard to argue against Flores’ allegations. Let’s look at one team, the Detroit Lions. Their head coaching practices in recent years are a little head-scratching to me. In 2017, the Lions fired Jim Caldwell after four years (2014-2017) of being their head coach. While there the Lions accumulated a 36-28 record, a winning record in three of his four seasons and had two playoff appearances. His last two seasons he went 9-7, which is actually quite impressive considering the talent in Detroit. His winning percentage is the best of any Lions coach since the 1950s. 

Since his firing the Lions have gone 17-46 and have had only white coaches. The coach that came a month after him was “defensive guru” Matt Patricia. Patricia came in as first-time head coach and left three years later with a lovely record of 13-29-1. This man was so bad that he has the fourth worst winning percentage in Lions franchise history in the Super Bowl Era. How can a coach this bad keep his job, yet another one who happens to be black loses his job after back-to-back winning seasons. It’s genuinely mind-boggling and overt how the Ford family did this. It always seems that not only are black head coaches not getting the support they need or are rightfully allowed to ask for, but they lose their job at the drop of the hat while awful white head coaches can continue with years of ineptitude.

Look at the Texans as well. Although they hired Lovie Smith on February 7, they seriously considered hiring Josh McCown, who I have nothing against and think he’s a nice guy, who spent 16 years rotating through the league mainly as a backup quarterback. McCown since retiring has never had a coaching position at any level. I mean I know the Texans as an organization sucks, but it’s like they were trying to do everything in their power to avoid hiring a competent black head coach. Thankfully Smith, although mildly surprising, has a pretty good resume and is capable of being a head coach in the NFL, will they turn the Texans around? Who knows.

Flores’ lawsuit is opening up the NFL and its’ owners to scrutiny like never before. This lawsuit and the subsequent information we get could change the NFL and shake the foundation of this league, hopefully for the better. The NFL needs to get rid of the Rooney Rule as it is not doing anything, and is actually hurting hiring purposes, and needs to really investigate how to fix things. They need to do better than giving empty promises, which seems like the case every time something controversial happens. Transparency is needed and there needs to be more oversight, whether from a newly formed diversity and inclusion team or some other organization.

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