Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores set off a media frenzy after filing a 58-page lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against the NFL, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants. Contained in the lawsuit were several accusations which have serious implications for the NFL.
Also contained in the lawsuit were screenshots of text messages exchanged between him and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in which Belichick congratulated Flores on becoming the next Giants head coach, with Belichick apparently believing he was texting Brian Daboll, who was another candidate for the Giants position.
Flores claimed that the text exchange showed that his interview with the Giants was a sham, only happening to satisfy the league’s Rooney Rule which mandates teams interview minority candidates for coaching jobs. He also claimed that the Broncos’ front office was guilty of holding a sham interview with him.
Flores stated in his lawsuit that the interviewers, including the president of football operations and the team CEO for the Broncos, arrived “completely disheveled” on top of being an hour late. The Giants and Broncos put out statements categorically denying Flores’ accusations.
In addition Flores accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering him $100,000 for every game that he lost in the 2019 season, with the front office trying its best to get the first overall pick.
Obviously, this accusation has serious implications for the integrity of the NFL’s product if coaches are being incentivized to throw games by ownership, especially with the popularization of sports betting on NFL games.
Additionally, if the claim can be proven, Ross may face criminal liability under the Sports Bribery Act. To add to the media firestorm, an article that claimed a witness heard Ross offer Flores $100,000 for every loss was posted and then deleted from the NFL’s own website.
Flores’ claims about being incentivized to lose by ownership were echoed by former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson alleged that while he wasn’t offered cash payments per loss, incentives were included for things that essentially meant having a losing team: for example, having the youngest team in the league.
Flores’ accusations highlight major issues in the NFL. Out of 32 head coaching positions, only one is occupied by a Black man. The Rooney Rule seems not to have done its job in promoting minority representation in head coaching positions if teams treat the requirement as a box to quickly tick and move on.
It is incredibly concerning if teams are creating sham interviews for minority candidates to comply with league regulations. Additionally, Flores’ and Jackson's accusations of league owners using minority coaches to take the fall for planned losing seasons are serious as well.
Previous hiring and firing patterns seem to back their accusations up. Take, for example, when the Houston Texans fired Black head coach David Culley after just one season, even though he largely exceeded expectations with a stripped roster and a third-round rookie quarterback.
If the league is truly serious about diversity and competitive integrity, it must seriously investigate all of these claims and look into new regulations to ensure minority head coaches receive serious consideration from front offices.