Fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian 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.
The lawsuit 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.
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.
"We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," the Dolphins wrote in a statement. "The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect."
- Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores opens up about lawsuit and alleged racist hiring practices in the NFL
The Broncos similarly denied the allegations, writing in a statement, "Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position. The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization—and its employees—from such baseless and disparaging claims."
The NFL also released a statement, saying it is "deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations." But that the claims are "without merit."
"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," he said.
The lawsuit alleges 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 said the firing of Flores was typical for Black coaches who are not given the latitude other coaches receive to succeed. It noted that Flores led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.
The improvement came even though, the lawsuit contends, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach's first season because he wanted the club to "tank" so it could get the draft's top pick.
The lawsuit alleged that Ross then pressured Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of the league's tampering rules. When Flores refused, he was cast as the "angry Black man" who is difficult to work with and was derided until he was fired, the suit said.
Last week, the Giants disclosed to third parties that they had decided to hire Brian Daboll as their new coach even when they had not yet had their scheduled meeting with Flores, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit showed text messages allegedly sent by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to Flores congratulating him for landing the Giants coaching job on January 24, CBS Boston reports. That text was sent three days prior to Flores actually interviewing for the job.
Flores then asked, "Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure."
Belichick replied: "Sorry – I f***ed this up. I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that. BB"
The lawsuit said Flores was then "forced to sit through a dinner" with the Giants' new general manager and "give an extensive interview for a job that he already knew he would not get."
In a statement, 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."
According to the lawsuit, his treatment by the Giants was typical of how the "Rooney Rule" has been administered for the last two decades.
The rule, named after Dan Rooney while he was chairman of the NFL's diversity committee, 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 Rooney 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 employs a Black head coach, only four of them employ a Black offensive coordinator and only 11 employ a Black defensive coordinator.
for more features.