When the Dolphins fired Brian Flores earlier this year, it was a huge surprise. Flores had Miami moving in the right direction, and while they weren’t a playoff team yet, the building blocks were there. It raised a ton of questions at the time, but it was widely assumed Flores would quickly find a new team. Now with coach vacancies starting to fill, Flores remains without a job — and he believes he knows why.
Flores filed a lawsuit Tuesday that names the National Football League, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Broncos and the remaining 29 teams, alleging widespread racial prejudice, discrimination, and use of the “Rooney Rule,” to string along minority candidates teams never considered hiring.
There’s a lot to dig through in the 58 page filing, but here are the most explosive elements of the lawsuit.
No. 1: Flores alleges he was pushed to tank the Dolphins in order to improve their draft position
During the 2019, Flores’ first in command of the Dolphins, he led the team to a 5-11 record, winning three of their last five games. Flores alleges that team owner Stephen Ross wanted him to intentionally lose games, even offering a bounty for losses — then was told by GM Chris Grier that Ross was angry for him winning.
“Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that “Steve” was “mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”
The Dolphins would go on to pick 5th in the 2020 NFL Draft, selecting Tua Tagovailoa.
No. 2: Stephen Ross wanted Flores to tamper with a quarterback
Following the 2019 season the suit alleges that Flores was pressured into breaking league rules by meeting Ross, and an unnamed quarterback in violation of league tampering rules. The suit claims Flores did not attend this planned meeting, but was later mislead about another meeting with Ross that turned into an attempt to convince a prominent QB to come to Miami.
“After the end of the 2019 season, Mr. Ross began to pressure Mr. Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules. Mr. Flores repeatedly refused to comply with these improper directives. Undeterred, in the winter of 2020, Mr. Ross invited Mr. Flores onto a yacht for lunch. Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that the prominent quarterback was “conveniently” arriving at the marina.”
The suit does not name the quarterback in question, though Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson are two names that would match the timeline in the suit.
No. 3: The Giants hired Brian Daboll before Flores was ever interviewed
This may be the wildest element of the suit, because it contains screenshots of a text conversation between Flores and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. In them it appears Belichick congratulated Flores on getting the job, before realizing he had texted the wrong coach.
This is significant because Belichick says he’s heard from both the Bills and Giants that they are hiring Daboll, but Flores was scheduled to interview three days after this exchange. Flores is alleging that this incident is a clear example of minorities being passed over for jobs, as well as breaching the NFL’s own Rooney Rule on hiring.
No. 4: The suit claims the Broncos were unprofessional and unprepared in a 2019 interview
As an extension of the claims brought against New York, the Flores suit details a meeting between the coach and the Denver Broncos in 2019. In it there’s an allegation that both team CEO John Ellis, as well as John Elway (who was GM at the time) arrived one hour late to interview Flores, and appeared intoxicated.
“However, the Broncos’ then-General Manager, John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview. They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before. 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. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos.”
What is Flores asking for?
The suit is asking for relief in the form of several initiatives to bolster minority involvement in the NFL including:
- Sourcing black investors to become potential NFL team owners.
- Asking for black players and coaches to become part of a team’s hiring process on head coaching and coordinator vacancies.
- Require NFL teams to justify in writing their hiring and firing decisions.
- Require NFL teams to supply side-by-side comparisons in record and resume when interviewing coaches.
- Create a fund for a training program to promote lower-level black coaches to coordinator positions if they show the aptitude.
- Incentivize the retention of black coaches and front office staff.
- Pay transparency for coaches of all levels across the NFL.
The NFL released the following response in relation to Flores’ lawsuit.
In response to Brian Flores' lawsuit, the NFL writes it will "defend against these claims, which are without merit." pic.twitter.com/BFh1T134kJ— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) February 1, 2022
While the Giants said this.
#Giants statement in response to Brian Flores’ allegations in the lawsuit he has filed. pic.twitter.com/MClyCkfVv0— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 1, 2022
There has been no comment from the Dolphins or Broncos at this time.