Brian Flores files lawsuit challenging NFL hiring practices

Zachary Brandwein, Staff Reporter

Brian flores
Shivani Bondada

On the first day of Black History Month, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores decided that he’d had enough. He filed a lawsuit against three NFL teams — the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins — and against the league itself for discrimination in the hiring and firing processes of coaches.

It was announced on Friday, Jan. 28, that the New York Giants hired the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for their vacant head coach position. Just days prior, New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belicheck texted Flores congratulations on being hired by the Giants, but Flores had yet to interview with New York. 

Flores asked Belicheck whether he was supposed to text Daboll or Flores, and Belicheck admitted his mistake. That Thursday, Flores had to sit through an interview with the Giants, knowing he would not get the job. 

The Giants held a fake interview to avoid a fine for violating the Rooney Rule, a 2003 addition to the NFL rulebook. 

According to the league website, “In 2021, the NFL approved changes requiring every team to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job. Additionally, at least one minority and/or female candidate must be interviewed for senior level positions (e.g., club president and senior executives).”

The Detroit Lions failed to comply with this rule in 2003 and were fined $200,000. 

Flores says that this was not the first time this had happened to him, and he also said that in 2019, the Broncos general manager John Elway showed up an hour late and “disheveled” after a heavy night of drinking the day previous. Vic Fangio, who is white, was hired days later.

Both the Giants and Broncos have said the allegations are false. According to the Giants, Belichick’s texts were sent after the Giants had a “20-minute zoom interview” with Daboll. Elway said that he flew in during the middle of the night from Denver, hence his disheveled look.

He was the first Dolphins coach to record back-to-back winning seasons since 2003, even after being bribed to lose more games. Flores says that Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross pressured him into tanking and offered $100,000 for every game they lost. The Dolphins deny these claims.

The NFL has also denied the allegations. They said that the claims are “without merit.” However, on Feb. 5, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams saying that the league’s lack of diversity is “unacceptable.” The quick turnaround has led many, including Flores’ lawyers, to believe that Goodell and the NFL are trying to save face.

About a month after firing Flores, the Dolphins hired San Francisco 49er’s offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as his successor. McDaniel, born to a white mother and Black father, does not identify as Black. McDaniel is one of two coaches of African American-descent hired after Flores’ filed suit. 

The NFL’s 2022 head coach hiring cycle has concluded, and Flores remains unemployed. He is not alone. Just five of the last 36 head coach openings have been filled by Black men, and other proven candidates, such as Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich, have still not been offered a head coaching gig. 

Flores knows that his coaching career is on the line, but he is willing to sacrifice that for the greater good.

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 making the decision to file the class action complaint, 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.”