Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores files lawsuit against NFL for racist hiring

“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” the lawsuit said.

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Brian Flores, let go by the Miami Dolphins last month, was expected to be among the top candidates for one of the open NFL head coaching jobs available at the end of the regular season. But as the league heads toward a Super Bowl that may possibly crown a new face of the league now that Tom Brady has retired, it finds itself in the midst of another racial controversy.

Per AP, Flores sued the NFL and three of its teams Tuesday, “saying racist hiring practices by the league have left it racially segregated and managed like a plantation.” At the end of the regular season of 32 NFL teams, only one was helmed by a Black coach after Flores was let go – Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, in his 15th season.

Nine head coaching jobs were available at season’s end, including the Raiders, Broncos, Bears, Vikings, Giants, Jaguars, and Texans. Four hires have been made as of Feb. 1.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court sought “class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals,” per AP.

“Flores was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure,” AP reported.

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Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during before the game against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals,” Flores said in a release put out by the law firm representing him in the case.

“In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. 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.”

AP says that the lawsuit alleged that the league has discriminated “against Flores and other Black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.”

“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” the lawsuit said.

“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,” it added.

The lawsuit was likely precipitated by an errant text from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who Flores, 40, worked under for ten years from 2008-2018. In his last season with the team, which won Super Bowl LII and was Brady’s sixth Super Bowl victory, Flores was the defensive play caller, though he never was given the title of defensive coordinator.

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The NFL logo is seen in a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Flores was the recipient of a congratulatory text from Belichick, who apparently confused him with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was hired as the head coach of the New York Giants last week. After the Giants hired former Buffalo Bills Joe Schoen assistant GM as their new GM, NFL pundits speculated that Daboll was a lock for the job, which was apparently true.

However, Belichick’s text came even before Flores interviewed for the job.

Though he hasn’t publicly spoken about it, Flores’ tenure with the Dolphins, where he took a losing team to a respectable record of 24-25 over three seasons, including seven straight wins in the final weeks of the 2021-2022 regular season, was reportedly tumultuous. It was said that he and embattled second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa didn’t always see eye to eye and that he also clashed with the Dolphins GM, Chris Grier and the team’s owner, Stephen Ross.

“An organization can only function if it’s collaborative, and it works well together,” Ross said of the firing, per ESPN. “And I don’t think that we were really working well as an organization [the way] it would take to really win consistently at the NFL level.”

During his tenure, Flores cycled through three different offensive coordinators, two defensive coordinators, and four offensive line coaches, leading the Dolphins organization to believe he couldn’t work well with others, despite his success.

But it’s widely known that the NFL owners are a boys club of mostly white billionaires. (Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is Pakistani-American.) Though Flores was supposedly on several team’s NFL shortlists for their next head coach hire, each coach hired of the nine available slots has so far been filled by a white coach.

Despite the league’s recently strengthened Rooney Rule, created by Steelers owner Dan Rooney to encourage interviewing and hiring of diverse candidates, it hasn’t led to many more Black head coaches.

Despite the commonly held notion that head coaches are drawn from offensive and defensive coordinator jobs, qualified, experienced candidates, including Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, remain on the proverbial sidelines every year.

It is an annual debate that some of these potential candidates are either not interviewed or don’t make it past a first interview, while other coaches with thinner resumes at the NFL level are hired each year.

Like Colin Kaepernick before him, Flores appears to be making a statement about the league’s pervasively backward racial politics and is likely putting his career on the line to do so with the filing of the lawsuit.

Per his 58-page lawsuit, as reported by ESPN, Flores said he wants to:

• Increase influence of Black individuals in hiring

• Increase the objectivity of hiring/terminating GMs, head coaches and coordinators

• Increase the number of Black coordinators

• Incentivize hiring/retention of Black GMs, head coaches and coordinators

• Transparency of pay for GMs, head coaches and coordinators

Additional reporting by Tonya Pendleton

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