The NFL was hit with a potentially dangerous lawsuit Tuesday when recently fired head coach Brian Flores went to court and accused the league of racist hiring practices. The former Miami Dolphins’ head coach is arguing the NFL doesn’t follow its own “Rooney Rule” and is basing his accusation upon an interaction he had with a prominent head coach this offseason, who unknowingly let Flores know that his interview with a team was only for show. This suit, if allowed to proceed, could put the NFL under a very bright legal light and potentially show that the league doesn’t take its own Rooney Rule seriously … something that many within the league have been whispering for generations.
Since 2003, the NFL has had the “Rooney Rule,” which requires all of their franchises to interview at least one member of “an underrepresented minority” for their head coaching and other front office positions when they become available. Fittingly, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired their head coach Mike Tomlin in 2007 when they interviewed him under the Rooney Rule and were so impressed, offered him the job. As of this week, Tomlin is the only minority head coach in the NFL with others getting interviews this offseason, but none to date being hired.
Brian Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins after three seasons in January despite posting a solid coaching record. The Dolphins, along with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants were also named in his lawsuit this week with Flores claiming his interview with them were just to satisfy the Rooney Rule requirements without the team ever being interested in hiring him.
Former #Dolphins HC Brian Flores is suing the NFL and the Giants alleging racism in their hiring process. Flores has texts from Bill Belichick congratulating him for getting the job — but Flores had yet to interview. The text was meant for Brian Daboll. https://t.co/gmPUw9gHIq pic.twitter.com/tyTztTf3br
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 1, 2022
Flores claims that his former boss, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots texted him to let his former assistant know the team was interested in hiring him. After expressing his own interest in working for the Giants, Flores received an apologetic text from Belichick saying that it was not him, but rather Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills who the Giants wanted to hire. The problem was that at the time the text was sent by Belichick, Flores had not yet even been interviewed by the New York Giants, yet a few days later the team announced Daboll was the franchise’s next head coach.
NFL teams have been dancing around the Rooney Rule for the last two decades, with general managers and owners targeting who they wanted to hire in advance of the interviewing process and going through the motions with other so-called candidates in order to fulfill the rule’s requirements and save face publicly. Armed with this text message from Belichick, a friend of the New York Giants ownership, Flores might finally be in a position to call BULLSHIT on the NFL and have them answer, and even pay for their shortcomings in regards to minority hiring.
If the text message can be verified, it might not only cause problems for the NFL, but for the head coach himself, who was playing both sides during the hiring process last month by interacting with the those interviewing for the jobs and those making decisions on who would be hired and passed over.
I don’t think the NFL will be able to talk their way out of this one if the message is real, leaving both a public relations and major legal battle in front of them, especially if other minority head coaches join the lawsuit Flores filed, which could become a class action suit if that happens. There’s a difference between having a rule down on paper and actually adhering to that rule. For the last two decades the NFL has had the Rooney Rule on their books … but if Brian Flores can keep this story in the headlines for a while, the NFL may be forced to actually follow that rule … which could, in turn, lead to not only minority candidates, but women taking more high-profile jobs within the league and their franchises. My feeling is that the clock has finally run out on the NFL and the time has come for some of the barriers they are willing to pay to help knock down in society be removed from their own league.
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