Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against the NFL, the New York Giants and other teams Tuesday, accusing them of living “in a time of the past” and paying lip service to minority hiring.
Flores, who is Black, was fired by the Dolphins after the recently concluded season even though his teams went a respectable 24-25, including a 9-8 mark in 2021 and a 10-6 record in 2020.
The termination was surprising, as Miami hadn’t posted consecutive above-average records since a run of seven straight winning seasons under Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt from 1997 to 2003.
After Flores was fired in January, he quickly became a top coaching prospect throughout the league and lined up an interview with the Giants.
But he claimed that he was forced to endure a phony interview with the Giants — and he said he has an incriminating text message from the legendary New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick to prove it.
Three days before Flores interviewed for the job, which went to Brian Daboll, Belichick is alleged to have texted him to say Daboll, the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator, had already gotten the job, according to Flores’ complaint in the Southern District of New York.
“Sorry ... I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB,” Belichick texted Flores, according to the lawsuit.
The NFL denied Flores' claims and said it would fight the suit.
"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 league said in a statement.
"Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time," it said. "We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
Dolphins senior vice president and spokesman Jason Jenkins also issued a blanket denial that didn’t address the suit's specific claims.
"We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," he said in a statement. "The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect."
Patriots vice president and spokesman Stacey James said he didn’t expect a response from Belichick, whose nonprofit organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NFL’s “Rooney Rule” mandates that every team must interview a minority candidate for head coach, general manager and top assistant coach positions.
Flores’ attorney, Douglas H. Wigdor, said, “The Rooney Rule is also not working because management is not doing the interviews in good-faith, and it therefore creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess.”
There is now just one Black head coach in the NFL — Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Giants insist that they interviewed Flores in good faith and nearly hired him.
“We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates,” the team said in a statement Tuesday.
“The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour,” it said. “Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”
Flores’ lawsuit also accused the Dolphins of demanding that he lose games — or “tank.”
It’s a distasteful but frequently effective pro sports strategy to make winning a low priority so payroll can be kept to a minimum while a team can be rewarded with high choices in the college draft that could lead to success in the future.
“Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that ‘Steve’ was ‘mad’ that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was ‘compromising [the team’s] draft position,’” according to the complaint.
Flores said in a statement Tuesday: “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."