Flores sues NFL, teams, alleges racism in hiring

Sports

NEW YORK — Brian Flores has sued the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, the Broncos and the Giants — alleging discrimination regarding his interview processes with Denver and New York and his firing last month by Miami.

The 58-page lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday and seeks class-action status. In it, Flores claims Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to incentivize him to “tank” or purposely lose games shortly after he was hired in 2019, with Ross allegedly offering Flores $100,000 for every game the team lost that season. Flores says that as the team won games late in the season, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier told him Ross was “mad” that Flores’ on-field success was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”

Additionally, Flores claims Ross pressured him into recruiting a “prominent quarterback” at the end of the 2019 season, which Flores refused so as not to violate the NFL’s rules on tampering. Ross then allegedly invited Flores onto a yacht for lunch in the winter of 2020, where he informed Flores that the “prominent quarterback” was “conveniently” arriving at the marina for an impromptu meeting.

Flores again refused the meeting and left the yacht. Afterward, Flores claims he was “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”

He was eventually fired on Jan. 10, 2022, despite recording the franchise’s first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003 (10-6 in 2021; 9-8 in 2021).

Flores also alleged the Giants interviewed him last month for their head-coaching vacancy for no other reason than compliance with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for their open positions.

Flores claims he interviewed with the Giants on Jan. 18, prior to the team hiring former Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen as its GM on Jan. 23. He claims the next day, Schoen finalized his interview date for Jan. 27 and Giants co-director of player personnel Tim McDonnell texted Flores and said he hoped he would “come in and win the f-ing job.”

However, hours later, Flores’ lawsuit alleges, he received a series of text messages from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, under whom Flores worked for 10 years in New England. In those texts, Belichick told Flores that he had heard from “Buffalo and NYG that you are their guy.”

Flores then asked Belichick to clarify whether he meant to talk to him or former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was also in the running for the Giants’ job. Belichick then admitted his error and informed him that the Giants wanted Daboll.

“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,” Belichick texted.

Flores alleges that his ensuing interview with the Giants was a “sham.” New York hired Daboll several days later.

In a statement later Tuesday, the Giants said: “We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”

Flores also claims a similar scenario to what happened with the Giants occurred when he interviewed with the Broncos for their open head-coaching job in 2019. Flores alleges that then-Denver general manager John Elway, among others, arrived to the interview an hour late and hungover — as he claimed they had been “drinking heavily the night before.”

In the lawsuit, Flores’ law firm, Wigdor Law LLP, said the coach hopes to “shine a light on the racial injustices that take place inside the NFL.”

Among the areas he said he’d like to see addressed:

• 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

The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages from the league. The NFL did not immediately respond for comment.

“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 Wigdor firm. “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.”

The Rooney Rule was created to give more minority candidates opportunities to become a head coach and reward teams who develop them.

In 2020, the NFL amended the rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head-coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general-manager role.

According to the lawsuit, only one of the NFL’s 32 teams currently employs a Black head coach, only four of them employ a Black offensive coordinator and only 11 employ a Black defensive coordinator.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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