Brian Flores Files Racial Discrmination Lawsuit Against the NFL


Miami Herald

Former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores.

February 1 marked the start of Black History Month and the filing of a class action lawsuit against the NFL along with three of its teams, citing intrinsic racial discrimination in their hiring practices. The plaintiff, Brian Flores, is the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins who was abruptly fired in the beginning of January despite leading the team to its first back-to-back winning season in 19 years. The lawsuit prompts a closer look at the NFL’s hiring practices and racial makeup of team leadership, as well as the Rooney Rule, a mandate that requires teams to interview minorities for job positions. Flores said that his interview processes with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants were a “sham” and only organized to comply with the rule’s guidelines, not because he was a serious candidate. 

Flores alleges that his surprising termination from the Dolphins was not a result of his lack of skill, but rather his refusal to comply with team owner  Steve Ross’s attempts to pressure him to violate NFL rules. Flores argued that in 2019, Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss that season, incentivising him to purposely lose games in order to acquire higher draft picks. The former head coach also claims that he was pressured to violate tampering laws when asked to recruit a “prominent quarterback,” and that he was actually tricked into boarding a yacht to meet the potential player, but left after realizing he had been duped. Flores states that afterwards, he was “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”

In the lawsuit, Flores also states that the NFL’s attempt at diversifying leadership positions by using the Rooney Rule is deceptive and unproductive, citing two “sham” interviews that he had with the Broncos in 2019 and the Giants in 2022. When he interviewed with the Denver team, he claims that the executives arrived an hour late for the meeting and were severely hungover. The Broncos, however, vehemently deny the accusations, stating that their hiring process was “thorough and fair” and the claims were “blatantly false.” Flores believes that the interview was solely conducted to comply with the Rooney Rule and that he experienced a similar situation with the New York Giants, where he claims that Bill Belichick accidentally texted him thinking he was Brian Daboll, former offensive coordinator for the Bills, saying that he heard that the Giants wanted him. Confusingly, this was before Brian Flores had interviewed for the job, meaning the team had already selected its next head coach and the interview was a sham. 

While the NFL has made moves towards racial equity in its hiring practices, the reality is that there are still disparities between policy and practice. Created in 2003 by the league’s Workplace Diversity Committee, the Rooney Rule aims to raise the number of minorities in top positions. It states that “at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job.” However, Flores says that the rule has failed to impact meaningful change and that the number of black coaches are nowhere near reflecting the number of black players on the field, which the lawsuit reinforces by stating “…only 11% of Head Coach positions have been filled by Black candidates–in a league where 70% of players are Black.” A number of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and National Action Network, met with the NFL commissioner on February 7th to discuss replacing the rule. In an interview with NPR,  National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said that “However well-intentioned, the effect of the Rooney Rule has been for team decision-makers to regard interviews with candidates of color as an extraneous step, rather than an integral part of the hiring process.”

As the Super Bowl concluded last Sunday and the offseason begins,, all eyes are on the NFL to see the actions they will take to address the allegations. The “Suit’er Bowl” is the number one topic among football fans, and as one Virginia paper put it: “What are people chatting about while preparing their game day parties – Rams versus Bengals or Flores versus the NFL?”