Just a few hours after Tom Brady announced his retirement, the next bombshell hit the NFL newswire. Brian Flores, the former Miami Dolphins head coach who was fired in January, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the league and its 32 franchises alleging them of racist hiring practices.
At the core of the lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, is the New York Giants’ interview process while looking for a new head coach. The Giants interviewed multiple candidates for the job, with Flores among them. Despite his qualifications and experience he did not get hired, however.
Instead, the Giants went with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. As the class action suit claims, “Mr. Flores was deceptively led to believe he actually had a chance at this job” and was only interviewed to satisfy the NFL’s so-called Rooney Rule.
Enter New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the former boss of both Flores and Daboll.
“The Giants would likely have gotten away with this most insidious form of discrimination if New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick had not mistakenly disclosed it to Mr. Flores” in a series of text messages, Flores’ lawyers claim. The alleged text messages in question show Belichick mistakingly congratulating the wrong Brian — Flores instead of Daboll — on getting the Giants job:
Flores interviewed with the Giants three days after Daboll. At that point, the team had allegedly already made its decision in former of the Bills assistant coach.
The lawsuit makes additional claims against NFL teams that have either employed Flores or interviewed him.
The Dolphins, for example, are accused of parting ways with Flores after he disregarded orders from Stephen Ross. Miami’s owner allegedly directed his team’s head coach to tank for the first overall draft pick in 2020, even offering “$100,000 for every loss.” Ross furthermore is alleged to have pressured Flores to “recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules.”
The quarterback in question was none other than the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who was set to enter free agency in 2020. Brady eventually did leave New England for Florida, but ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than the Dolphins.
Flores’ lawsuit also accused the Denver Broncos of interviewing him in 2019 with the sole purpose of following the Rooney Rule. According to the filing, “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.”
Flores released a statement in the aftermath of filing the lawsuit:
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. In making the decision to file the class action complaint, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game I love and 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.
Flores spent three seasons as the Dolphins’ head coach but in a surprising decision was fired after the end of the regular season. Miami had gone just 24-25 and missed the playoffs each year, but it was coming off its first back-to-back winning seasons since the early 2000s. Before moving to Miami, Flores had spent 15 years working under Belichick with the Patriots.
The NFL also released a statement in response to Flores’ claims and lawsuit:
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. 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 Dolphins and Broncos also released statements. Neither Belichick nor the Patriots — the latter being named among the 33 defendants themselves — have reacted yet.