Brian Flores sues NFL and three teams, claiming racial discrimination

The lawsuit names the Giants, Dolphins and Broncos specifically and the NFL’s other 29 teams generally. The Bears don’t appear anywhere else in the lawsuit.

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Brian Flores is suing the NFL.

MOBILE, Ala. — A murmur rumbled through the scattered crowd at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama campus. Those gathered to watch the American team practice for the Senior Bowl had their eyes buried in their phones, reading about a development Tuesday that sent shockwaves across the NFL: Brian Flores, the former Dolphins coach, was suing the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos — as part of a class-action complaint claiming racial discrimination in hiring practices.

“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,” Flores said in a statement.

The complaint presents texts from the most accomplished coach in the sport: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Screenshots purporting to be a Jan. 24 text conversation between Belichick and Flores, a former Patriots assistant, features Belichick offering congratulations after Belichick heard that Flores was the choice to be the Giants’ next head coach.

Flores asked Belichick whether he was texting the wrong Brian: Flores’ interview for the Giants was still three days away. Brian Daboll, the Bills’ offensive coordinator, was also up for the Giants job. Belichick apologized, saying he misread his original text.

Daboll was named the Giants’ head coach Jan. 28. Flores claimed his own interview was a sham.

The lawsuit names the three teams specifically and the NFL’s other 29 teams generally. The Bears don’t appear anywhere in it.

Flores interviewed for the Bears’ vacant head-coaching position on Jan. 14, four days after he was unexpectedly fired by the Dolphins. Last week, the Bears named Ryan Poles the first Black general manager in franchise history. He chose Matt Eberflus as the head coach.

Chairman George McCaskey is a member of the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee. He said at the beginning of the search that he wanted a “fair process” in terms of diversity, but not necessarily “a particular result.” The Bears’ five-person panel that selected Poles featured McCaskey, president/CEO Ted Phillips, advisor Bill Polian, vice president of player engagement LaMar “Soup” Campbell and senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade. Campbell and Wade are Black.

There’s no debating the NFL’s longstanding problems with racial equality. As of Tuesday, only one team employs a Black head coach — the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin — although about 70% of the players are Black.

Flores claimed he was fired in part because he refused to lose games to improve the Dolphins’ draft pick in 2019. He said owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for each loss. Flores claimed that Ross wanted him to recruit an unnamed quarterback on a yacht during an impermissible period, but he refused.

Flores also claims that a 2019 interview with the Broncos was merely held to satisfy the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for GM, head coach and coordinator positions. He claimed that then-Broncos GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis “looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.”

Flores, who recently interviewed for the Texans and Saints head-coaching positions, was scheduled to speak to CBS on Wednesday morning. The Giants, Dolphins and Broncos released statements late Tuesday defending their actions. The NFL said it “will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”

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