MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a class action lawsuit, claiming the "NFL remains rife with racism."
At the center of the lawsuit is a text message from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
The lawsuit claims Belichick texted Flores instead of Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for landing the New York Giants' head coaching job.
In screenshots of the exchange, Flores asked Belichick, "Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure."
Belichick replied, "Sorry – I [expletive] this up. I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that. BB."
Flores had to then sit through a "sham interview that was held only in an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule," the lawsuit claims.
But, according to the lawsuit, this apparently wasn't the first time that Flores was used to comply with the Rooney Rule.
"Indeed, in 2019 Mr. Flores was scheduled to interview with the Denver Broncos. However, the Broncos' then-General Manager, John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview. They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before. It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos," the lawsuit states.
As for how the Dolphins factor in, the lawsuit alleges that Flores was not terminated due to "poor collaboration," as widely reported, but because he refused owner Stephen Ross' "directive to 'tank' for the first pick in the draft."
"Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami's owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team's General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that 'Steve' was 'mad' that Mr. Flores' success in winning games that year was 'compromising [the team's] draft position,'" the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit then goes on to state that "Mr. Ross began to pressure Mr. Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules," which Flores refused.
A year later, the lawsuit claims, Ross tried ambushing Flores into meeting the "prominent quarterback," but Flores left before such a gathering took place.
"From that point forward, Mr. Flores was ostracized and ultimately he was fired. He was subsequently defamed throughout the media and the League as he was labeled by the Dolphins brass as someone who was difficult to work with. 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 lawsuit states.
According to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Tom Brady was the "prominent quarterback" Ross wanted Flores to recruit.
In a statement after filing the lawsuit, Flores said he understands it may negatively impact his chances to land another NFL head coaching job, but nevertheless felt compelled to go public with the accusations.
"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. In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game I love and has done so much for my family and me," Flores said. "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."
Tuesday evening, the Miami Dolphins released a statement in response to Flores' allegations.
"We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon. We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect. We will be withholding further comment on the lawsuit at this time," the organization wrote.
The NFL also released a statement Tuesday evening, stating, "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."
The lawsuit claims to seek to "shine a light on the racial injustices that take place inside the NFL and to effectuate real change for the future." Additionally, the following injuncting relief is sought:
- Increasing the influence of Black individuals in hiring and termination decisions for GM, head coaching, and coordinator jobs.
- Funding a committee dedicated to sourcing Black investors to take majority ownership stakes in NFL teams.
- Requiring teams to "reduce to writing the rationale for hiring and termination decisions, including a full explanation of the basis for any subjective influences." That would include "side-by-side comparisons of objective criteria, such as past performance, experience and objective qualifications."
- Increasing the number of Black offensive and defensive coordinators, while creating and funding a training program for lower-level Black coaches to develop into coordinator level jobs.
- Incentivizing the hiring of Black GMs, head coaches and coordinators.
- Creating "complete transparency with respect to pay" for all GMs, head coaches and coordinators.
The lawsuit detailed the history of Black coaches getting overlooked for jobs or fired prematurely, including Jim Caldwell, Steve Wilks, David Culley, Kris Richard, Teryl Austin, Eric Bieniemy as well as Flores.
South Florida attorney David Weinstein says the lawsuit will impact more than the football field.
"He's made some very strong allegations in his lawsuit. And he's pointed to specific instances of conduct that have occurred," Weinstein said. "There are many in Washington who we're going to be looking at this... this is going to ring loud and clear across the entire country."
Stay with CBSMiami.com for updates on this developing story.
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