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NFL rife with racism, coach’s lawsuit claims

The New York Giants interviewed Brian Flores after another candidate already got the job, according to a federal complaint.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Calling the National Football League rife with racist hiring, the former Miami Dolphins head coach sued the league Tuesday, saying it granted him a sham interview for another head coaching job only to satisfy a diversity recruiting requirement. 

Brian Flores sat for two interviews for the the New York Giants’ head coach position, even though another candidate had already been chosen for the job, he says in a federal complaint

It was New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick who accidentally revealed that fact to Flores, according to text message screenshots in the Manhattan court filing. Two days before Flores attended a dinner interview, Belichick mistakenly told Flores he was being tapped for the job. 

But the planned hire was another Brian — former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“I fucked this up. I double checked & I misread the text,” Belichick sent, correcting himself, according to a screenshot in the filing. “I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that.” 

In addition to the Giants, Dolphins and NFL itself, Flores’ class action names the Denver Broncos, claiming they also invited him for a sham interview in 2019, before hiring a white head coach. (The Broncos, for their part, call this “blatantly false.”)

The Rooney Rule, adopted in 2013 and amended in later years, requires every NFL team with open head coach positions to interview at least two external minority candidates. 

But the requirement hasn’t changed anything, Flores says, describing in his lawsuit a history of segregation and racial inequity. 

Flores’ complaint points out that 70% of NFL players are Black. By comparison, just 3% of teams employ a Black head coach. In the 76 years since the league integrated its players, there has never been a Black commissioner or majority team owner. 

“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,” the complaint states. 

It wasn’t until last year, as part of a $1 billion settlement, that the league stopped applying race-based criteria to dementia evaluations that made it harder for Black players to qualify for brain injury payouts. 

Flores’ suit asks the court to require the league to create and fund a committee dedicated to sourcing Black investors to take majority ownership stakes in NFL teams and allowing Black players and coaches to participate in the interview process for top team roles. It also calls for written hiring and firing rationales and side-by-side comparisons of candidates’ criteria, including past performance and experience. 

Flores’ lawsuit quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and cites other Black leaders and civil rights advocates. 

“As this Class Action Complaint is filed on the first day of Black History Month, 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,” the 58-page complaint states. “Unfortunately, however, there is so much more to be done.”

A representative for the Giants said the team stands by its decision. 

“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 Giants said in an email. “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 NFL said it is “deeply committed” to fair employment practices, and that Flores’ claims are baseless. 

"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," the league said in a statement. 

Flores is represented by Douglas H. Wigdor of Wigdor LLP and John Elefterakis of Elefterakis, Elefterakis & Panek.

“This case seeks to level the playing field in the hope that future owners and coaches will be representative of the athletes who are playing this great game,” the attorneys wrote in a joint statement. “We fully expect coaches and players of all races to support Brian as he embarks on his journey to create positive change.”

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