Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos — on Tuesday. He alleged racially discriminating practices for Black coaches in the hiring process, the way the ones who get head coaching jobs are treated and in their retention in high-ranking roles.
Among the bombshell claims in Flores’ 58-page lawsuit, he said Dolphins owner Steve Ross attempted to incentivize him to “tank” games in the 2019 season for better draft positioning and pressured Flores into recruiting a “prominent quarterback,” against NFL tampering rules.
Flores also claims that the Giants only interviewed him for their head coaching vacancy to comply with an NFL rule on interviewing minority candidates, something that was revealed to him when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick mistakenly texted him a congratulatory message intended for Brian Daboll, who was officially hired on Friday, days before Flores’ interview.
Flores was fired on Jan. 10 after three seasons as Miami’s coach in which he went 24-25. The Dolphins parted ways with him despite back-to-back winning seasons of 10-6 in 2020 and 9-8 in 2021. Flores went 5-11 with a talent-depleted roster in his first head coaching season in 2019.
In the lawsuit, Flores claims Ross told him he would pay $100,000 for each game lost in that 2019 season in order to “tank,” or lose purposely to improve a team’s position in the following offseason’s draft. The Dolphins started 0-7 that year, but as they won five of the final nine games, general manager Chris Grier told Flores that Ross was “mad” over the victories, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims that Ross set up a meeting between Flores and the “prominent quarterback” by inviting Flores onto a yacht for lunch all while the player was “conveniently” arriving at the marina. Flores claims that, after refusing the meeting and leaving the yacht immediately, he was treated with disdain and as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.
The quarterback, according to reports, was Tom Brady. That offseason, Brady went from the Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead, winning the following Super Bowl. Brady’s final regular-season game with New England was a home loss to the Dolphins that capped Flores’ first season as coach in Miami.
Flores claims he had to sit through a dinner with new Giants general manager Joe Schoen last Wednesday and extensive interview on Thursday knowing New York was already going with Daboll for its head coaching vacancy. According to the lawsuit, Flores was tipped off by text messages from Belichick, whom both Flores and Daboll have been assistants under for long tenures in New England. In the screenshot texts displayed in the suit, Belichick mistakenly congratulates the recipient, Flores, after saying he heard from the Giants and Buffalo Bills that Daboll was set to be hired.
Flores claims against the Broncos that, when he was interviewed in 2019, then-general manager John Elway, president and CEO Joe Ellis and others showed up an hour late in a “sham” interview before Denver hired Vic Fangio for the job. Flores felt he was only interviewed for compliance with the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires minority candidates get interviewed when a team is hiring a new head coach.
“They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before,” the lawsuit said. “It was clear from the substance of the interview 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.”
Flores and his attorneys will be on “CBS Mornings” live Wednesday to talk about his race discrimination lawsuit against the NFL at 7 a.m.
Flores’ lawsuit comes out as he had just completed interviews for other NFL coaching vacancies on back-to-back days — on Monday with the Houston Texans and Tuesday with the New Orleans Saints. He put out a statement indicating he feels his lawsuit will affect his chances of landing another head role.
“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 a release put out by the law firm representing him in the case. “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.”
The Dolphins released their own statement: “We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon. 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. We will be withholding further comment on the lawsuit at this time.”
The Giants also put out a statement: “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 fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”
The Broncos denied Flores’ claims, calling them “blatantly false.”
An NFL statement on Tuesday evening read: “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. 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’ far-reaching, unprecedented suit could be viewed as one of the greatest attempts to attack systemic racism and discrimination in the NFL since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick challenged the league for last playing in 2016.
“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” the lawsuit said.
“Its 32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black. The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-Black workforce put their bodies on the line every Sunday, taking vicious hits and suffering debilitating injuries to their bodies and their brains while the NFL and its owners reap billions of dollars,” it added.
The complaint was filed on the first day of February, which is Black History Month, which was noted in the suit’s preliminary statement: “We honor the brave leaders that fought so hard to help break down racial barriers of injustice. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson and Mamie Till, to name only a few.”