On Tuesday, February 1, former long-time Patriots assistant Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos alleging racial discrimination during various head coaching interviewing processes.
Flores and his attorneys circulated a 58-page lawsuit that included a series of text messages they allege occurred between Belichick and Flores. In the texts, Belichick appears to prematurely congratulate Flores on landing the New York Giants head coaching job.
Only, Belichick was seemingly mistaken and the Giants were going to hire another of his former assistants, Brian Daboll, who had been the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. The lawsuit alleges Belichick texted the wrong person with inside info before later apologizing:
“Sorry — I f***** this up. I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB,” Belichick wrote, per the lawsuit.
In a statement to media, Flores said he filed the lawsuit to “stand up against systemic racism in the NFL”:
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 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.
More Details From Flores’ Lawsuit
Flores’ lawsuit includes specific allegations against multiple teams, owners and coaches, although all 32 of the NFL’s clubs are cited as defendants in the case.
Flores alleges Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss during the 2019 season, asking him “to ‘tank’ the season to put the team in position to secure the first pick in the draft.” He also alleges Ross tried to get him to violate NFL tampering rules by actively recruiting “a prominent quarterback,” which according to Joe Schad of The Palm Beach Post was Brady, prior to reaching free agent status in 2019.
The lawsuit indicates Flores refused initial overtures by Ross, who he claims then “attempted to ‘set up’ a purportedly impromptu meeting between Mr. Flores and the prominent quarterback” on a yacht in a marina. Flores said he left “immediately” and then was “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with,” according to the lawsuit.
Flores was fired on January 10 despite leading the Dolphins to a 19-14 record over the past two seasons.
The portion of the lawsuit against the Giants stems from his interview for the team’s opening at head coach. Flores alleges the interview was only conducted to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which after a 2009 amendment, now requires teams to conduct an in-person interview with at least two external minority candidates for head coach, GM or “equivalent” front-office positions.
According to Flores, he met virtually with the Giants on January 18, which was before the team hired Bills former assistant general manager Joe Schoen as its new general manager on January 23. Schoen scheduled a second interview with Flores on January 27, according to the lawsuit, and on January 23 McDonnell “told Mr. Flores that he hoped that Mr. Flores would ‘come in and win the fng job.'”
Just hours later, Belichick’s text arrived, according to the document, indicating the Giants had already decided to hire Daboll.
The Giants officially hired Daboll as their head coach on January 28. Flores in turn called his interview with the Giants a “sham.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the Broncos only interviewed him for their opening in 2019 to satisfy the Rooney Rule and that then-general manager and franchise icon John Elway arrived at the interview one hour late, appeared “completely disheveled” and “it was obvious” he had been “drinking heavily the night before.”
The NFL & Teams Respond to Flores’ Claims
The Giants responded to the allegations in a statement on February 1, writing in part, “We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. … Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach,” according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo on Twitter.
The Dolphins also released a statement saying in part, “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,” per ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques.
The Broncos’ statement was similar, calling the allegations “blatantly false,” per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “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.”
Finally, the NFL responded claiming Flores’ allegations were “without merit,” per ESPN’s Field Yates.
The history of discrimination in the NFL — whose player pool is approximately 70% Black and only employs one active Black head coach (Mike Tomlin) and five Black general managers as of writing — is long and well-documented.
Recent history is littered with examples such as Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy being unable to land a head coaching gig despite clear qualifications: Leading a Super Bowl-winning offensive unit, noted development of QB Patrick Mahomes, experience under Andy Reid and interviewing with or being requested by nearly half of the NFL’s 32 clubs over the past three offseasons dating back to 2019, most recently the Denver Broncos in January.
Per Flores’ lawsuit, the handling of David Culley, Jim Caldwell, Steve Wilks and Kris Richard, to name a few, over the last few seasons is further supporting evidence.
So for the league to call Flores’ claims meritless is troubling in itself.
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