The NFL has been sued by a lot of people throughout the course of its very long history. The most popular of such lawsuits was when Raiders Owner, Al Davis, sued the NFL over the move to Los Angeles in the 1980’s. Players have most recently sued the NFL over CTE in 2016. Now, the NFL has a completely different lawsuit to deal with.
One the first day of Black History Month, Brian Flores, ex-Dolphins HC, filed a lawsuit against the NFL over racism among the coach hiring process, the hypocrisy of the Rooney Rule, and his own experiences as a HC in the national football league.
There’s a lot to unpack in the lawsuit. Names are dropped, texts are potentially leaked, and the fire seems to have awakened others to talk about their own experiences. Let’s take a look at some of the key highlights and takeaways from the lawsuit and what it could mean to Philadelphia.
New York Giants and Bill Belichik
One of the first main claims Flores has against the Giants is that they made him go through a “sham” interview because they felt they already had their guy in Brian Daboll.
Flores then cites text messages from Bill Belichik as evidence to show the Giants already had their guy and were going in a different direction.
In reality, text messages mean nothing. All the Giants have to say is “we were very thorough with our search and while Daboll was the favorite, if we were blown away by someone else we would’ve gone in a different direction”.
Oh wait they did:
It would be extremely difficult for Flores to prove the Giants organization is racist. There’s not much legal evidence to support the claim other than Belichik’s text. Flores mentioned in the lawsuit that the Giants thought he would be a top candidate for the job, but they gave it to another top candidate.
Very difficult to prove. This isn’t a coach getting shunted for someone who isn’t qualified. Brian Daboll has a lot of pedigree as well. It’s very difficult to prove this with the evidence Flores is showing.
The issue at hand would be the Rooney Rule and how teams try to circumvent it. But we’ll touch on that later.
Flores’ lawsuit throws a very large section into Eric Bienemy, OC of the Kansas City Chiefs, and why he hasn’t gotten a Head Coaching job.
This one gets tricky. In terms of legal proceedings, Flores isn’t really offering evidence to say the NFL is racist in it’s coaching hiring cycle. He’s more just stating a well known fact that it’s wrong Eric Bienemy is still an OC and hasn’t really been locked into a Head Coaching job.
Flores may be right here in that it’s wrong Bienemy is still an underling. The Andy Reid tree is full of coordinators who ended up getting head coaching jobs and flourishing. Pederson, Harbaugh, Rivera etc. Why is Bienemy not getting a shot?
There have been reports of Bienemy not interviewing well, off-field concerns having run-in’s with the law on multiple occasions. That’s not to say these issues were in the past or that the reports are true: this is what NFL reporters have passed on. Is it the teams being honest about the candidate? Or is it more a hit-piece to make sure he never gets a shot?
It could very well be that Bienemy isn’t getting a fair crack at the HC job, or the NFL is purposely doing this to him. It could also be noted that with this lawsuit, it might put Bienemy on the fast track to get a job now too.
Many things to think about on this regard.
Denver Broncos in Providence
Here’s the first claim Flores made, that was almost immediately responded to. Flores claimed that in an interview with the Broncos, John Elway and other high ranking officials with the team showed up extremely late, clearly hungover, and behaved in an unprofessional manner.
Again, Flores only offers the first hand account here as part of the lawsuit, but the Broncos almost immediately responded a couple hours later.
Now the NFL does not have to display their notes in interviews to the general public. The question will be how far does Flores take this lawsuit?
The notes and evidence would have to be displayed to the court and public. It’s very difficult for Flores to corroborate evidence if the Broncos have their own notes to this. It’s also a very strong statement from the Broncos as well. Until the notes are fully displayed or Flores offers evidence, it’s the first case of he said/he said in this suit.
This is where Flores, if he has evidence, can add a massive blow in this suit.
Flores accuses Dolphins Owner, Stephen Ross to offering money incentives for the Dolphins to lose games and basically “tank“. When the Dolphins started winning in 2019, Ross was upset.
The suit also alleges Ross tried to get Flores to tamper with a free agent QB, that has since been reported was Tom Brady, but Flores was having none of it.
If Flores has any of this partnership and deal with Ross in writing, or wired links to accounts with the money being processed, it’s evidence of an NFL Owner tampering with a product.
Comparisons to Pete Rose betting on games is a fair reach. It would seriously undermine the integrity of the NFL and it’s latest deal with sports betting.
This above all else in the lawsuit is probably the most important from a legal standpoint because it could implicate not just the Dolphins, but the entire league as a whole. However, it is also fair to point out that unless Flores has legit evidence of this, a witness or something to defend his story, it’s another case of he said/he said.
People can potentially point to the US Government stepping in and potentially investing it, but the reality is with the NFL being a private company, inquiries such as this are usually ignored.
What is Flores looking for in this lawsuit?
Flores made several key points to why he was filing the lawsuit and the changes he wants to see initiated. Some are below:
- Creating and funding a committee dedicated to sourcing Black investors to become majority NFL owners
- Allowing select Black players and coaches to participate in interviews for GM, head coach and coordinator positions
- Requiring teams to provide the rationale for hiring and firing decisions in writing
- Creating and funding a training program for lower-level Black coaches to advance to coordinator positions
- Incentivizing hiring and retention of Black GMs, head coaches and coordinators through monetary, draft and/or other compensation
- Providing complete transparency of pay for all GMs, head coaches and coordinators
In the end, most of this is subjective wants and requests and most, if not all are going to be ignored.
Private and governmental companies outside of football are not required to give notes and reasoning for the selection of a hire. The NFL would be the exact same.
The NFL lives to protect itself and it’s interests. Whether you agree or not on that point, the ability to demand NFL Owners sell teams, or offer incentives to black entrepreneurs to buy teams is wishful thinking.
The only two points here that would be helpful and is fair to see the NFL change is the training program for lower-level black coaches to become coordinators and the incentivizing hiring and retention of black GMs, coaches etc. This was how Demeco Ryans became an excellent DC for the 49ers.
What it means for the NFL
Objectively speaking, there’s very little chance Flores’ lawsuit comes to anything. Maybe he has evidence Ross tried to throw games, and there’s certainly evidence qualified head coaches are being passed up. But is that a racism issue, or an incompetence issue?
NFL Owners make a lot of money, and some have absolutely no football sense in them. It’s very difficult to prove racism when it could easily be accused of incompetence instead.
While Flores did send this lawsuit out, there are a few black coaches also joining in solidarity to Flores’ attempt at change.
Ex-Browns coach Hue Jackson has been very vocal about his support and offered an attempt at evidence for the Browns doing something similar.
Jackson went 3-36-1 in his three season with Cleveland. The issue with him of course, it that while the Browns were a poor team and poorly constructed, the year they fired Jackson they were 2-5.
When Gregg Williams took over they went 5-3 the rest of the way and actually finished the seasons with the highest win total in decades.
The other piece to Hue Jackson’s report is that his final season with the Browns was on Hard Knocks. It was televised for the whole world to see. Here’s a reminder of how bad that got:
We can make the point that there’s many specific cases that show Flores is right in black coaches not getting their fair shot in the NFL.
But this is where the lawsuit flies off the hinges. Tanking does happen in every sport. A GM was basically removed in Philadelphia because of it by the league. And Hue Jackson is not doing Flores any favors in trying to prove his case, when there is video evidence to support that what happened to him wasn’t a race issue.
What it means for the Eagles
Believe it or not, there’s definitive evidence the Eagles could be in this same boat.
Since the Andy Reid firing, Duce Staley was interviewed for the Head Coaching job for four different openings. Jeffrey Lurie hired Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson and now Nick Sirianni.
They may cast a wide net of candidates and have a history of taking unknown names and getting very successful results, but that net has been pretty straight forward and shunted one of youngest and brightest coaching minds in football.
This isn’t to say Duece should have gotten the job, or that anyone is entitled to a position just because they are good. Relationships matter and how someone acts as a leader is far more important than how the play-calls are.
But in a league that has a serious issue with the lack of minority coaches and executives in top roles, the Eagles are not the outlier, they are the norm. Not something Eagle fans really want to care about at a time where the future is very bright, but as the NFL begins to deny these claims and lawsuit from Flores, every team needs to be scrutinized.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire