NEW YORK - Fired Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three of its teams Tuesday, saying racist hiring practices by the league have left it racially segregated and managed like a plantation.
The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court sought class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals.
Flores was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
The lawsuit said the firing of Flores was typical for Black coaches who are not given the latitude other coaches receive to succeed. It noted that Flores led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.
The improvement came even though, the lawsuit contends, Miami 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 "tank" so it could get the draft's top pick.
The lawsuit alleged that Ross then pressured Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of the league's 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, the suit said.
The complaint, filed in New York, claims was forced to sit through an extensive interview for the head coaching position with the New York Giants, knowing the team had already chosen Brian Daboll for the job -- because Patriots coach Bill Belichick accidentally texted the wrong Brian. Belichick texted him, congratulating him for getting the job, despite the fact that Flores' interview was scheduled several days later.
When Flores responded, asking for clarification, Belichick responded and admitted he had misread the text, then told Flores he believed the Giants were choosing Daboll for the position.
"Mr. Flores was deceptively led to believe he actually had a chance at this job," the lawsuit said, adding that he had to endure a dinner with the Giants' new general manager knowing that the team had already selected Daboll.
In a statement, the Giants said: "We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach."
The lawsuit also names the Denver Broncos, claiming that in 2019, the team conducted a "sham interview" with Flores only to comply with the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview "at least one or more diverse candidates."
According to the lawsuit, his treatment by the Giants was typical of how the "Rooney Rule" has been administered for the last two decades.
The rule, named after Dan Rooney while he was chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee, was created to give more minority candidates opportunities to become a head coach and reward teams who develop them.
In 2020, the NFL amended the Rooney Rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, 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.
According to the lawsuit, only one of the NFL's 32 teams employs a Black head coach, only four of them employ a Black offensive coordinator and only 11 employ a Black defensive coordinator.
A message sent to the NFL for comment was not immediately returned.
Read the full complaint below – WARNING: Strong language (mobile users: click here to read)
"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," Flores said in a release put out by the law firm representing him in the case. "In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, 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."
The lawsuit alleged that the league has discriminated against Flores and other black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.
"In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation," the lawsuit said.
"Its 32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black. The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-Black workforce put their bodies on the line every Sunday, taking vicious hits and suffering debilitating injuries to their bodies and their brains while the NFL and its owners reap billions of dollars," it added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.