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Lawsuit For the Ages Opens Up History of Racial Hiring

Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL), specifically against the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Football Giants.

Brian Flores had a winning overall record in his final two seasons as Dolphins Head Coach. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL), specifically against the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Football Giants. Flores cites the reasonings for the lawsuit are racial hiring practices and unfair interview opportunities given to not only himself, but also Black head coaches and prospective candidates. 

This is not the first instance that NFL owners have been accused of racial hiring practices regarding head coaching candidates and executive positions. It is, however, the first time in a long time that someone has stepped forward to hold the league accountable by bringing the issue nationwide. The lawsuit has brought into question the invention and effectiveness of the Rooney Rule. 

The Late Dan Rooney, former Owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XL. Al Messerschmidt/ Getty Images

The Rooney Rule was instituted into the NFL in 2003 after there was outcry that the NFL was discriminating against Black head coaching candidates and not giving them a fair shot at coaching in the league. There were at the time only three Black head coaches in a league of 32 teams. The Rooney Rule insisted that owners and management were required to interview at least one Black head coaching candidate in the process of searching for a new hire.

The issues that came with it, while having good intentions from the start, did not achieve the desired results.  Over the past decade there have been only 15 head coaching hires for Black head coaches and there still have been franchises that have never had a Black head coach in the history of their franchise. According to USA Today, six NFL teams have never hired a Black or person of color coach or general manager on a full time basis: the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans.

The New York Giants have never had a full-time Black head coach in franchise history and are involved in the lawsuit for having a coach already in position before going through a formal interview with Flores, causing him to feel humiliated. 

“We knew it was a setup,” Flores stated on the matter when discussing the Giants. This act is one of many where teams conduct interviews with prospective Black coaching candidates simply to check a box rather than allowing them an opportunity with backdoor deals being made. 

The Denver Broncos are being sued because John Elway showed up to an interview with Flores where he described him to be a bit hungover from a possible night of drinking. Elway has denied these allegations.

The most alarming team is the Miami Dolphins who fired Flores after he had a winning record of 9-8 in the 2021 season and led the Dolphins on a seven-game winning streak. The year prior, he led the Dolphins to a 10-6 record. Flores alleged that Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross, offered to pay him $100,000 for each game that Flores lost so that the team could get a better draft pick. If proven true, Ross could be forced to sell the team for putting the integrity of the game at risk.

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The issue of Black coaches not being given an opportunity is one that has stood the test of time and the end result of the Rooney Rules has only shown one current active Black head coach, Mike Tomlin.

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Steelers. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Tomlin has received admirable support from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and has been a true role model and positive figure for Black people in the U.S. The Steelers have given him the reins for more than 10 seasons and look to continue to ride the horse. The Steelers have shown him the utmost respect and the lawsuit hopes to bring the same fortune to other head coaches.

The impact that Black head coaches can have on younger Black athletes can be huge. DaShawn Simon, a senior wide-receiver, expressed his thoughts on the impact that Black head coaches can have.

“I think that having a Black head coach influences your decisions and the way that you behave on the field and off the field,” Simon states in an interview. “Having a man that’s like you to be in the same room with the same likelihood as you as far as trajectory in life is impactful.” 

He also had words on the process that NFL teams use to hire coaches and how he feels they should be changed to allow Black coaches with superior resumes to get a fair shot.

“The fact that there is potentially a coach that’s hired without the proper process is outrageous and is uncalled for. It’s something that needs to be changed.

There will be more updates to come on this story as the lawsuit unfolds.

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Copy edited by Lauryn Wilson

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