Illustration by Sofia Reeves

NFL faced with legal action after equity complaints

Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) and its teams this week, bringing forth accusations of sham interviews, incentivized losses and systemic racism. Flores said in a statement to NFL Network that he hopes others will join his lawsuit to share stories of “systemic racism in the NFL.” 

However, league officials, as well as executives from the three biggest culprits named in the lawsuit — the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos — have all vehemently denied Flores’ claims, leading some to question whether Flores will be able to prove the allegations of systemic racism and corruption in court.

Flores was recently fired from his head coach position with the Miami Dolphins despite delivering a promising 2021 season in the middle of a team rebuild. The lawsuit alleges that his firing was not a result of his job performance, but rather his private disagreements with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Flores alleges that Ross offered him $100,000 for each game he purposely lost during the 2019 season, as the Dolphins organization aimed to receive the coveted first pick in the NFL Draft. Flores refused the offer, stringing together wins and improving the Dolphins record throughout the 2020 season, reportedly to the outrage of Ross.

Additionally, Flores alleges that in a 2019 interview for the open head coach position with the Denver Broncos, team president Joe Ellis and then-general manager John Elway showed up over an hour late while also heavily intoxicated. In another instance, Flores claims he was humiliated by the New York Giants by not being given a fair shot in their hiring process. The day before his interview with the Giants, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck accidentally texted Flores a congratulatory message intended for Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who had just received the Giants offer for the open head coach position. The Giants proceeded to interview Flores anyway, asking  him meaningless questions before telling him he was not a qualified candidate. 

Flores alleges that these sham interviews arise from the NFL’s Rooney Rule, enacted in 2003 to increase the number of minorities in top positions with teams. The rule provides each NFL team that interviews a minority for a coaching or executive position with a compensatory draft pick. Since its enactment, the rule has led to a surge in minorities involved in the hiring process even though there has been a sharp decline in the number of minorities to actually receive an offer. While many have criticized the rule, some players and experts have come out in support, saying that prior to the rule’s establishment, minorities seldom received interviews at all.

The NFL is no stranger to misconduct allegations. The Washington Commanders are currently under investigation by the United States House Oversight Committee for toxic workplace, sexual harassment and corruption allegations. The league is also dealing with controversy surrounding its alleged cover-up of the long-term health effects players deal with, such as chronic brain damage. Flores is one of the first individuals to stand up to the NFL, and many await what happens next.

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