One day after his bombshell lawsuit was filed against the NFL alleging racist hiring practices by the league, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is speaking out.
Speaking with his lawyers on CBS’s morning show Wednesday, Flores said he was contacted by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick congratulating him on getting the New York Giants head coaching job days before his interview - a job that went to Brian Daboll, who is white.
“It was a range of emotions. Humiliation, disbelief, anger,” Flores said. “I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am in football, to become a head coach. To go on what felt like a shame interview, I was hurt.”
Flores said he still went on the interview because he still felt like he had some hope in changing the team’s mind and said he has “a belief there is good in people.”
“We knew he wasn’t getting the job on the day before the interview, “ said his lawyer, Doig Wigdor. “We knew it was a setup. We knew they were just trying to comply with the Rooney Rule.”
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.
The lawsuit 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.
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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.
"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,” he said.
In a statement, the NFL said it will defend “against these claims, which are without merit.”
The Miami Dolphins said in a statement that they are aware of the lawsuit and deny the allegations of racial discrimination.
"We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," the statement read. "The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect. We will be withholding further comment on the lawsuit at this time."
The lawsuit alleges 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.
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.
“This game’s done a lot for me. I didn’t grow up with a lot,” Flores said Wednesday. “To attack the integrity of the game, that’s what I felt was happening in that instance.”
Wigdor, in a separate interview with CNN, said they have "corroborating evidence" about the allegations.
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.”
According to the lawsuit, his treatment by the Giants was typical of how the "Rooney Rule” has been administered for the last two decades.
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.
“This is about changing the hiring practices in the National Football League, and that's what this lawsuit is about,” Flores said on CNN. “I want to coach football that’s what I’m called to do.”