Brian Flores Sues NFL over Racist Practices

Zeno Minotti, Sports Editor

On January 10th, 2022, the Miami Dolphins shockingly fired head coach Brian Flores after two consecutive winning seasons, a feat the Dolphins had not accomplished since 2003. On February 1st, Flores announced that he is suing the National Football League (NFL) and three of its teams, the Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants, alleging racial discrimination in their hiring and firing practices.

Racial equity in coaching has been an issue for as long as the NFL has existed. Last season, just five of the thirty head coaches in the NFL were people of color, three of whom were Black, including Flores. That is despite the fact that 70% of the league’s players are Black. In 2003, the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least two candidates of color for a head coaching position, but its impact has been minimal to nonexistent.

As part of the lawsuit, Flores alleged that his interview for the New York Giants head coach position on January 27th was simply just a way to satisfy the Rooney Rule. Flores said that days before his interview he received a text from Bill Belichick saying that he had heard from “Buffalo and NYG and that you are their guy.” After Flores responded to clarify, Belichick allegedly responded, “Sorry –I   f—ed this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that.”

There is a larger discussion that must be held regarding the NFL’s practices.

Just a day after Flores’ interview, Daboll was hired. Flores alleged a similar problem when he interviewed for the head coaching position of the Denver Broncos in 2019. He said that the Broncos general manager at the time, John Elway, among other staff, showed up to Flores’ interview late and hungover, obviously conducting the interview just to satisfy the Rooney Rule. Furthermore, Flores alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss in an attempt to tank for a better pick. He also said that Ross wanted Flores to recruit a quarterback against the NFL’s tampering rules. Flores alleged that when he refused both, it upset Ross, one of the factors in Flores’ firing.

Shortly after the lawsuit was announced, all parties accused vehemently denied Flores’ claims. Still, no matter the result of the case, there is a larger discussion that must be held regarding the NFL’s practices. For a league that painted “End Racism” in the end-zones of every team’s fields, Flores is one of many people to speak out about the racism he has faced at their hands.

The problems run much deeper than just head coaching positions. Of the sixty coordinators in the NFL, a role that frequently leads to becoming a head coach, just fifteen are filled by people of color. Additionally, the position in football whose players most commonly become a coach is quarterback, which for most of the league’s history has had far more white than Black players. As for Flores, his case, which is ongoing, will likely prove to be a monumental one for the NFL. The ruling will likely provide either a reckoning for the league or continue the practices that have long plagued it.

This piece also appears in our March 2022 print edition.