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Former Coach Sues NFL, Three Teams for Racist Hiring Practices

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Former Miami Dolphin Head Coach Brian Flores used the first day of Black History Month to file a lawsuit alleging that the NFL “is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation.”

Flores, who is Black, was fired as head coach on Jan. 10 with two years left on his contract. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement at the time that “key dynamics of our football organization” weren’t functioning well. There was also tension reportedly between the coach and the general manager, Chris Grier.

If you believe you have been discriminated against in hiring, firing, or other employment decisions based on your race or other protected class, contact the experienced team at Shellist Lazarz Slobin.

Fired After a Winning Season

During his time in Miami, the Dolphins posted a 24-25 record. The last two winning seasons were 9-8 but missed out on making the playoffs. The Dolphins hadn’t enjoyed back-to-back winning seasons in almost 20 years.

Many expressed surprise at the Flores firing and questioned whether he was given a fair shake. After his firing, only one Black head coach remains in the league.

Allegations in the Flores Lawsuit

Flores’ lawsuit takes aim at the NFL and three of its teams -- the Broncos, Dolphins, and Giants. According to the lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, Flores endured racial discrimination during the interview process with the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants. During this time in Miami, he says his treatment was also based on his race.

The Flores complaint states that he was set up to fail in Miami:

  • Flores says Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for every loss in the 2019 season. Ross supposedly wanted the team to lose to improve their position in the upcoming draft. Flores refused to “tank” for the first pick in the draft.
  • At the end of the 2019 season, Flores was pressured to violate the league’s tampering rules to recruit a prominent quarterback. Flores refused to violate league rules.
  • From that point forward, the coach was considered non-compliant, difficult to work with, and ultimately fired.

The lawsuit also alleges that two different teams did not live up to the spirit of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule was adopted in 2003 and named after Dan Rooney, former Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee. The rule requires teams to interview diverse candidates for coaching jobs. The rule was amended in 2020 to require teams to interview at least two minority candidates for head coach vacancies. One minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.

Flores says that the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants both interviewed him, but neither team had any intention of hiring him. They were simply checking a box and feigning compliance. A white man was hired to lead those teams.

Race and the NFL

The lengthy lawsuit addresses what it says is a pattern of racist practices and made note of the following facts:

  • There are 32 NFL teams.
  • Only 1 team has a Black head coach (3%).
  • Only 4 teams employ a Black offensive coordinator (12%).
  • Only 11 teams have a Black defensive coordinator (34%).
  • Only 8 teams employ a Black special team coordinator (25%).
  • Only 3 teams have a Black quarterback coach (9%)
  • Only 6 teams employ a Black general manager (19%)
  • Approximately 70% of the players are Black.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court sought class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the three teams, and unidentified individuals. The suit states that the league has routinely discriminated against Flores and other Black coaches for racial reasons. Qualified and experienced Black coaches are denied positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches, and general managers.

Flores said in a statement, “I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. 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."

Federal Protections from Employment Discrimination

Several federal laws protect Americans from being subjected to discrimination in employment practices:

Employment practices include hiring and firing, compensation, promotions, recruitment, testing, training, benefits, and more.

Advocates for Those Treated Unfairly

Despite laws that prohibit otherwise, some employers continue to apply biased and improper methodology in their decisions. Minority, disabled, and older workers are still denied raises, promotions, and jobs. Our highly trained attorneys focus on employment law civil litigation.

At Shellist Lazarz Slobin, we handle cases in both state and federal courts. Our experience spans a wide range of employment discrimination. No case is too complex.

We offer consultations by phone or email. Take the first step by completing our online intake form. If you have questions, call (713) 352-3433.