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NFL Coach Suing League for Race Discrimination

Brian Flores served as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach from 2019 to 2021. The team fired him in January 2022. The NFL now has just one Black head coach. In February 2022, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit asserting the league and three of its teams discriminated against him based on his race. Flores specifically named the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos as engaging in race discrimination against him.

To support his allegations, Flores pointed to text messages received from the New England Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick. Intending to text another coach, Belichick texted Flores to congratulate him on obtaining the Giants’ head coaching position. Flores was scheduled to interview for that position three days later. Flores argued these texts show that the interview process was a sham. Flores also asserted the Dolphins’ owner offered Flores $100,000 for every team loss to position the team for a better draft pick. Flores claimed the Denver Broncos put him through a similar sham interview process in 2019.

In 2003, the NFL first implemented the Rooney Rule to improve the diversity of its head coaches. The 2021 iteration of the rule required every NFL team to interview two external persons of color for head coaching positions and one external person of color for executive positions. Teams are also required to interview a woman for every business role. According to Flores, the league followed the rule in name only and did not ultimately hire candidates of color. NFL team owners are not penalized when they fail to hire diverse individuals. 70% of the league’s players are black. Flores also filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The NFL responded to the lawsuit in a statement. “We will defend these claims, which are without merit.” Flores likely signed an arbitration agreement that may require him to resolve his claims outside of the courts.