Brian Flores says his lawsuit against the NFL for alleged racist hiring practices will continue even if he returns as head coach this offseason.
Flores interviewed the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints, who have yet to fill their coaching positions. If they call, Flores will listen, but he said the suit will continue because the league needs to change.
“This is about changing hiring practices in the National Football League, and that’s what this is about,” Flores said on CNN Wednesday. “I want to coach football, that’s what I’m called to.”
Flores said he knew others had similar stories and it was difficult to speak up. He called his potential sacrifice bigger than football or training. The NFL is at a crossroads, he said.
“We’re going to keep things the way they are or go in another direction and make changes where we actually change the hearts and minds of those who make the decision to hire head coaches, executives, etc.” , said Flores on CBS. . “That’s what we have to get to. We need to change hearts and minds.
Tony Dungy, a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, wrote an open letter to NFL owners on Wednesday and shared a link on social media.
“A year ago I wrote a letter to NFL owners saying the NFL had a problem only they could fix,” Dungy wrote on Twitter. “Not much has changed. Brian Flores’ suit shows the frustration of many black coaches. This might just be the tip of the iceberg. Something has to change!”
Flores’ lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. He is seeking class action status and unspecified damages from the league, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants, as well as unidentified individuals.
The NFL, Dolphins, Broncos and Giants have denied Flores’ accusations. In its statement, the NFL said it would defend itself “against these allegations, which are without merit.”
Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance and former league general manager, noted that Flores’ lawsuit is the final call to action for the NFL and its team owners.
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The Alliance, which fights for fairness and inclusion in professional football, is named after a 1920s black player and coach who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Men and women of color in the NFL community have long known that the odds to advance through the coaching ranks and into the front office are stacked against them,” Graves said in a statement. “The Fritz Pollard Alliance supports Coach Flores and others in their efforts to level the playing field for men and women of color.”
Flores, 40, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record in three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight season, but failed to qualify for the playoffs during his tenure.
According to the lawsuit, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach’s first season because he wanted the club to “book up” so that he can get the first pick in the draft.
The lawsuit alleged that Ross then pressured Flores to sign a top quarterback in violation of league tampering rules. When Flores refused, he was cast as the “angry black man” who is difficult to work with and was derided until he was fired, according to the lawsuit.
Flores said he had conversations with general manager Chris Grier that Ross was upset that Miami was jeopardizing its draft position by winning too many games. Flores said he also spoke several times with Ross, who said the team didn’t need to win right away and the coach was under contract.
“It’s not something you make up,” Flores said of those conversations.
The Cleveland Browns have refuted suggestions by former coach Hue Jackson and an associate that he was paid by the team to lose games, calling the claims “completely fabricated.” Jackson, now a coach at Grambling, posted several messages on Twitter inferring that he received bonus payments from owner Jimmy Haslam while coaching Cleveland.
What prompted Flores to take legal action was a series of text messages with Patriots coach Bill Belichick three days before his scheduled interview with the Giants, which led Flores to believe that Brian Daboll had already been chosen as the new coach.
“It was humbling to be quite honest,” Flores said. “There was disbelief, there was anger, there was an outpouring of emotion for a lot of reasons.”
Anthony Lynn, a former Chargers head coach fired earlier this month as the Lions’ offensive coordinator, said Wednesday he fully understands Flores’ feelings.
“He shouldn’t have been released,” Lynn said.
Since the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule in 2003 to boost the hiring of minority coaches, 27 of 127 head coaching jobs have gone to minorities. This year, white men filled the first four of nine head coaching positions.
The rule requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general/executive director of football operations, head coach and all co-ordinator roles. At least one of these interviews must take place in person for any head coach or general manager opening.
Dungy told The Associated Press last month that Rooney’s goal was to slow down the hiring process and investigate different applicants, creating a search process rather than an interview quota.
“My hope would be for owners to state very specifically what they’re looking for and then research a variety of people before making a decision,” Dungy told the AP.
Teryl Austin, a senior Pittsburgh assistant defensive coach with the NFL’s only black head coach in Mike Tomlin, was interviewed for 11 head coaching positions without being hired. He spoke to the AP in October about the NFL’s hiring pipeline and said interviews are “priceless experiences” and the rule puts black applicants ahead of landlords.
Flores’ lawsuit mentions Austin as someone who was “never lucky” among coaches who unsuccessfully interviewed for head coaching positions.
Yes, Austin could tell when an interview was real or just cross out the Rooney Rule box.
“I could tell when I was really into it,” Austin said. “And so for me, it’s worth it.”
Flores said he understands this lawsuit could prevent him from starting to coach again. He’s called the NFL’s Rosa Parks taking over the league’s hiring practices, and Flores called it a humiliating comparison.
“It gives me more confidence that we made the right decision here and that we have to keep fighting for this change,” Flores said.
AP Pro Football writers Rob Maaddi and Barry Wilner and AP sportswriters Will Graves, Larry Lage and Tom Canavan contributed.
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