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The Sad and Uncomfortable Truth of Brian Flores' NFL Lawsuit

Photo Credit: USA Today

Brian Flores filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the NFL, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins. In his 58-page lawsuit, Flores is alleging a pattern of systemic racism in their hiring practices. He has a host of examples where he feels he's been humiliated and discriminated against. But Flores is shining the light on the dark corners of the room that no one wants to admit, and now we need to see change come about after this. We have a problem with minority coaches landing and keeping a head coaching job. It's not just a Stephen A. Smith rant, it's real.

Brian Flores’ lawsuit is a lengthy one that calls out the NFL in their hiring practices. The NFL has immediately denied the accusations, calling them meritless and they will fight this lawsuit. Usually the NFL is slow to respond to any charges levied against them and their response is much more cautious. The NFL will typically state they will go through the investigation process, gather the facts, determine if there is validity, etc. But on this claim, it's meritless from the jump, likely a calculated plan to sway public opinion hours after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit has many levels to it, but the tipping point for Flores was a text message exchange with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick reached out to congratulate Brian Flores for landing the head coaching job. Only the problem was he was texting the wrong Brian. He meant to text the eventual head coach of the Giants, Brian Daboll. Why this is significant was that Flores hadn't even interviewed for the job when the text message came through. Belichick confirmed that his source told him that Daboll was going to be named the coach. Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch along with new GM Joe Schoen have denied the claims. Mara contacted Flores before the GM was even hired to inform Flores that he was a serious contender for the head coaching position. Even of the 3 finalist for the position, 2 of them were black, but the position eventually went to Brian Daboll.

In Denver, Flores alleges that Broncos' brass led by John Elway showed up to the meeting late and seemed to be hungover and disheveled. Their unprofessionalism during the interview led him to believe that the interview was a sham, that they didn't take it seriously. Flores felt that it wasn't a genuine interview, that he had a realistic shot at the job and that they didn't see Flores as a viable candidate. Elway has refused these claims, calling Flores' claims to be false and defamatory.

But in my opinion, the most damning part of the lawsuit is his allegations against the Miami Dolphins. Flores alleges that owner Stephen Ross offered to incentivize Flores for tanking games while head coach in the Miami Dolphins. Ross offered him $100,000 per game if he lost so that the Dolphins could achieve a better draft position. Ross has denied these claims, but if this is true there needs to be serious repercussions. It's hard enough for a black man to land a head coaching job, now you're asking him to tank? Then ownership will fire him because the team isn't winning, lowering his chances of landing another position.

Photo Credit: MSNBC

For years the NFL has had a problem with race. While over 50% of the players are African-American, only one African-American holds a position of head coach (Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh). In 2003, the “Rooney Rule” was created to force NFL owners to give African Americans a fair chance of being hired as a head coach. The goal was to level the playing field to give equal opportunity to all minor coaches; black men, female, etc.

At that time, there were 3 African-American coaches in the league in 2003. And 8 years after the “Rooney Rule” was enacted, the 2011 season saw a record 7 black head coaches. But since then, the amount of black head coaches has started to trend in the wrong direction. According to an article on The Undefeated, "the researchers found that before the guidelines were enacted in 2003, the league averaged 2.23 coaches of color per season; after the 2003 season it jumped to 3.76." The rule was working to help minorities earn positions of power, and coaches like Mike Tomlin have benefited. But the Rooney Rule, while put into place to help minorities in the workforce, has ultimately failed in the long run and taken minority candidates backwards. Like I stated, we only have 1 black coach in the league after two were just fired (one being Flores). Flores had a winning record his last 2 seasons but was still let go. With the 9 head coach vacancies in the NFL, not one has gone to a minority candidate. Minority coaches, if they get a head coaching job, are held to a higher standard and are more likely to be fired after a shorter stint.

Not only is it harder to get a job, it's harder to keep it. It's documented that black coaches tenure is much shorter than white coaches. And according to the article on The Undefeated, "the paper found that after leaving a head coaching position, 14% of white coaches were hired as head coaches again the following season compared with just 7% of coaches of color." The disparity with black coaches is alarming to say the least and why Flores felt compelled to be on the front lines.

The issue isn't with the quality of coaches, it's the people who are hiring them. If the 32 owners in the NFL, there is only one minority owner and none of color. They are mostly white men, of whom the league is basically controlled by. I'm not accusing the owners of racism, but the hiring practices have to change. The owners seem to be more likely to hire white male coaches because of a comfort level. We need more owners that look like us, meaning an owner of color. We need men and women like us to be able to hire men and women like us. The most alarming part of the lawsuit was the pictures of executives and owners in the league. The pictures were mostly of all white men, to see it laid out in pictures tells the story better than words can.

We can't expect someone to change this for us, we as a society have to force the change to happen. We have to have these uncomfortable conversations to promote and foster change. I'm hopeful that after smoke is cleared from this lawsuit, change comes on many levels. Owners will be more willing to interview and hire black coaches because they want to, not because they have to. I'm hopeful that there is more transparency with the hiring process and we see what goes into all interviews. I want to see why you made the decision not to hire a particular black coach. I'm ok with hiring the right coach because of merit or because that's your guy. But when he's hired because he looks like you or you can relate to him, then we have a problem. We don’t have the luxury of “not seeing color” in today’s times, no matter how much we want to live in that sort of utopian society. The sad truth is we do see color because this country is built on years of separation, unlevel playing fields, racism, bigotry, etc. We have to face the truth and not gloss over it, that’s the only way to move forward.

Brian Flores is committing career suicide to see that generations after him are afforded better opportunities in the NFL. He knows this fight will likely black ball him much like it did Colin Kaepernick. But the cause is bigger than his coaching dreams, so we all have to make this one count. Let's hope these efforts are not in vain.

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