Ex-Dolphins HC Brian Flores Sues NFL, Giants Alleging Racial Discrimination

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a racial discrimination lawsuit Tuesday against the National Football League and three teams, alleging he was frozen out of top coaching positions because of his race and that the league "is managed much like a plantation."

The 58-page federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges the "NFL remains rife with racism," particularly around hiring Black head coaches, coordinators and general managers. Only one of the NFL's 32 teams employs a Black head coach and small percentages of African Americans hold other leadership positions, despite making up about 70 percent of the league's player pool, according to the lawsuit. "This is not by chance," the lawsuit states.

"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," reads the lawsuit.

The lawsuit has been filed as a class action complaint, meaning that others with similar experiences as Flores could join.

Brian Flores At Dolphins Game
Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. On Tuesday (02/01/2022), Flores sued the NFL and his old team, alleging widespread racial discrimination. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

"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 statement posted to social media. "In making the decision to file the class action complaint, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game I love."

Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins in January despite leading the team to back-to-back winning seasons in 2020 and 2021. Each year the team missed the playoffs, just one back from the final playoff spot each time.

While he was terminated for "poor collaboration," the lawsuit said the real reason was for refusing to lose games at the directive of team's owners in order to improve the Dolphins' prospects in future draft picks. The lawsuit states that the team's owner, Stephen Ross, told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss in 2019.

"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," the NFL said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. "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 Miami Dolphins issued a statement saying "the implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect."

"We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," the team said in a statement.

The lawsuit also targets the New York Giants, alleging the team used a longstanding NFL policy meant to bolster diversity as cover after glossing over Flores.

The Giants last month made the decision to hire Brian Daboll as head coach, and disclosed the call to third parties despite having a scheduled interview with Flores, the lawsuit alleges. That would violate the NFL's "Rooney Rule," which requires teams to interview racial minorities for head coaching and other senior positions before making hiring decisions.

Flores in January was interviewed by Joe Schoen, the Giant's general manager, for the head coach position. Afterwards, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick accidentally disclosed to Flores in a text that Daboll had already been picked, the lawsuit states.

"Sorry – I f-cked this up," Belichick said in a screenshot of a text he sent to Flores that was included in the lawsuit. "I double checked and misread the text. I think
they are naming Brian Daboll. I'm sorry about that. BB."

Flores in 2019 interviewed for a head coach position with the Denver Broncos. However, John Elway, the team's then-general manager, and Joe Ellis, its president and CEO, showed up an hour late to the interview, looking "completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before," according to the lawsuit.

"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," the lawsuit states.

The Broncos said in a statement that Flores' allegations are "blatantly false." The statement said the interview with Flores began at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2019, in a Providence hotel. There were "five Broncos executives present for the interview, which lasted approximately three-and-a-half hours—the fully allotted time—and concluded shortly before 11 a.m.," the statement said.

"Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate," the Broncos said in a statement. "Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position. The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization—and its employees—from such baseless and disparaging claims."

The lawsuit alleges that the Rooney Rule has failed, pointing out that of the 129 head coaching vacancies over the last 20 years since the policy was put in effect, only 15 have been filled by Black candidates.

Black coaches are also less likely to be retained as head coaches than their white counterparts and have faced double standards in leadership positions, according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, it alleges that Black players have had a harder time getting compensation for head injuries. The lawsuit also points to the treatment of Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who became unemployed after taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief aimed at increasing the number of Black individuals in head coaching and other leadership positions along with other measures intended to increase diversity.

Flores is represented by New York City-based law firm Wigdor LLP.