Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and its 32 teams, alleging racial discrimination in its hiring process.
Flores alleges the New York Giants brought him in for a “sham interview” for their head-coaching position “that was held only in an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule.”
His lawsuit claims the Giants made their decision to hire Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for that role before Flores’ scheduled interview — and that Flores discovered this because New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick mistakenly sent him a congratulatory text, believing he was texting Daboll.
Flores and Daboll both are former Patriots assistants who worked under Belichick in New England. The suit includes screenshots of these alleged texts.
“Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll,” Flores texted. “Just making sure.”
“Sorry – I f—ed this up,” Belichick replied. “I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB”
Flores proceeded to interview with the Giants last Thursday. New York announced Daboll’s hiring Friday.
“… Mr. Flores had to give an extensive interview for a job that he already knew he would not get — an interview that was held for no reason other than for the Giants to demonstrate falsely to the League Commissioner Roger Goodell and the public at large that it was in compliance with the Rooney Rule,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Giants released a statement after Flores’ lawsuit went public, saying he was “in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour.”
“Ultimately, the team said, “we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”
The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview at least two external minority candidates before hiring a new head coach. The Giants also interviewed Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier before officially announcing Daboll’s hiring, with Frazier interviewing twice.
The NFL said in its own statement that Flores’ allegations are “without merit.”
“The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations,” the statement read. “Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”
Flores’ lawsuit also includes allegations against the Dolphins, who fired him last month after three seasons, and the Denver Broncos, with whom he interviewed for a head-coaching job in 2019.
The 40-year-old coach alleges Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for every Miami loss during the 2019 season because Flores refused to comply with Ross’ desire to “tank” for the No. 1 draft pick in 2020. The 2019 Dolphins started 0-7 but won five of their final nine games — including a Week 17 upset in New England — and received the fifth overall selection, which they used on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Flores also alleges Ross “began to pressure Mr. Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback” after the 2019 season, “in violation of league tampering rules.” The identity of this QB was not revealed.
“Mr. Flores repeatedly refused to comply with these improper directives,” the lawsuit read. “Undeterred, in the winter of 2020, Mr. Ross invited Mr. Flores onto a yacht for lunch. Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that the prominent quarterback was ‘conveniently’ arriving at the marina. Obviously, Mr. Ross had attempted to ‘set up’ a purportedly impromptu meeting between Mr. Flores and the prominent quarterback. Mr. Flores refused the meeting and left the yacht immediately.
“After the incident, Mr. Flores was treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
Flores coached two more seasons with the Dolphins, missing the playoffs but finishing above .500 in both, before being fired.
Flores also alleges two Broncos executives, including then-general manager John Elway, arrived an hour late to his head-coaching interview and “looked completely disheveled … it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before.”
“It was clear from the substance of the interview,” the suit read, “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.”
In a statement, Flores, who spent 15 seasons with the Patriots as a scout and then an assistant coach, said he “understand(s) that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me” by filing this lawsuit.
“God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for changes is bigger than my personal goals,” he said. “… 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.”
Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the NFL’s only active Black head coach.