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Brian Flores Sues NFL For Racial Discrimination

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 07: 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)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Recently fired Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit against the NFL and its franchises over the league’s racist hiring practices. The suit claims the “NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators, and General Managers,” a situation that has “only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity.” Flores filed the suit in the Southern District of New York as a proposed class action on Tuesday, timing it for the first day of Black History Month.

The suit centers around Flores’s experience working in the Dolphins organization and the “humiliating” process of interviewing for several head coaching gigs for which Flores claims he was never seriously considered. As for his most recent gig, Flores says his successful 2019 season pissed owner Stephen Ross off, as Ross wanted the team to tank for the top pick in the NFL Draft; the lawsuit says that Ross offered Flores $100,000 per loss in order to ensure the team had a crack at Joe Burrow. Flores refused, the Dolphins went 5-11 and wound up with Tua Tagovailoa, and Flores says his relationship with Ross was forever strained. It allegedly cracked further when Ross set up a surprise winter 2020 meeting between Flores and a “prominent quarterback” who is rumored to be Tom Brady. Flores says he walked out of that meeting because it violated league tampering rules.

Flores was then fired on Jan. 10, one day after his team beat the Patriots to wrap up a 9-8 season. Flores overachieved in Miami, so his firing caught the public off guard. Ownership, for its part, cited a high rate of assistant coach turnover on Flores’s staff and the opportunity to hire Jim Harbaugh as reasons for the dismissal. Stories quickly emerged about Flores’s poor relationship with Tagovailoa, and getting fired after two winning seasons surely raised some questions about Flores’s management style, but he was still seen as a prime candidate for one of this offseason’s many openings.

According to the lawsuit, Flores knew he was not going to be seriously considered for the New York Giants job despite having a Jan. 27 interview scheduled, because his former colleague Bill Belichick accidentally texted him a congratulatory message intended for Brian Daboll, who’d already been assured of the job despite Flores’s scheduled interview. Oops!

Flores then had to go sit through his interview anyway, an experience he likened to a humiliating interview experience with John Elway in 2019, for the Broncos’ head coaching job that wound up going to the since-fired Vic Fangio. In that instance, Flores says Elway showed up an hour late and “looked completely disheveled.” Flores says it was obvious that Elway had been “drinking heavily the night before” and equally “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.” Flores has also had interviews scheduled with Houston and New Orleans this offseason, though one imagines neither ownership group, each of which has faced notable accusations of racism in the past, will seriously consider him if he even goes forth with those interviews. For their part, the Giants released an odd statement claiming Flores was a serious candidate for the head coaching gig “until the eleventh hour,” a claim that is contradicted in court records by the most famous NFL coach of all time.

Update (5:55 p.m. ET): The NFL and Miami Dolphins have both released statements.