Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a class action lawsuit against three NFL teams and the league itself. Brian, who is Black, claims that NFL “is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation”.
Flores was surprisingly fired by the Dolphins last month despite leading the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003. The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, seeks unspecified damages.
“The NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers,” says the Class Action complaint. It adds: “Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organizations (the “Teams”) have been given every chance to do the right thing. Rules have been implemented, promises made—but nothing has changed. In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity.”
The lawsuit also alluded to the power balance of the NFL, in which white owners and coaches profit from a violent and physically damaging sport in which the majority of the players are Black.
The only person of color to own an NFL team outright is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Shahid Khan, who is Pakistani-American. Kim Pegula, who is Asian American, is a part-owner of the Buffalo Bills.
“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,’’ the lawsuit says. “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.”
While Shahid Khan or his team is not part of the lawsuit but a reference to his ownership of Jacksonville Jaguars highlights how less diverse the NFL is. While team ownerships in NFL may have less to do with racial segregation and more to the business priorities of billionaires who are from minorities and people of color. Shahid Khan is the owner of Flex-N-Gate, the Illinois-based automotive company. As of November 2021, Khan’s personal net worth is $9 billion.
But Khan’s team is not doing good either, which the critics are calling completely “dysfunctional”, with 10 losing seasons in 11 years. Khan purchased the Jaguars in November 2011 for 770 million dollars. He is also a board member of the NFL Foundation. “The Jaguars have a significant talent deficiency, lacking quality depth compared to other NFL teams,” wrote John Reid in a recent article in Florida-Times Union.
Between the disastrous hiring (and subsequent firing) of Urban Meyer and the horrible play on the field, almost nothing has gone right for Jacksonville this season. And after NFL Network reported that Khan decided to retain general manager Trent Baalke for next season, a vocal faction of the Jaguars fanbase had seen enough.
They changed their social media avatars to a clown emoji with Khan’s mustache — a movement that has seemed to catch on with Jags Twitter, said ForTheWin, USA Today’s affiliate inn a report.
Khan’s fanbase may be unhappy with his team’s performance, but no one can deny the fact that off the tens of billionaires across the US who identify themselves as people of color, its only him who has staked a sizable chunk of his fortune at stake. He must be given the credit for that and rather his team should be supported more because it is America’s only team with an immigrant ownership.
In the lawsuit against the three NFL teams, Flores also depicts a Dolphins team with “a troubling” culture. He alleges he was offered a $100,000 bonus for every game his team lost during the 2019 season in order to secure a higher position in the 2020 NFL draft. When the team won games towards the end of the season, Flores was quoted as saying, he was told Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was “mad” that the victories were “compromising [Miami’s] draft position.”
The suit also says Flores refused to recruit a “prominent quarterback” at the end of the 2019 season as it would have broken the league’s tampering rules. Flores says afterwards he was “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with” and was subsequently cast as an “an angry Black man”.
The NFL has long been criticized for a lack of diversity in its coaching ranks. There is currently only one Black head coach in the NFL – the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin – despite more than two-thirds of its players being Black. The lawsuit also highlights the fact that only 12% of offensive coordinators are Black, 34% of defensive coordinators and 19% of general managers.
The Denver Broncos and New York Giants, who recently hired white candidates with no head coaching experience, are also named in the lawsuit. It alleges that both teams met with Flores to fulfill the Rooney Rule, which states teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching vacancies, but had no intention of employing him. Flores claims two Broncos executives, including Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, turned up an hour late for a 2019 interview and “looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious they had been drinking heavily the night before”, Guardian added in a report.
Flores’s lawsuit claims the Giants interviewed him despite already knowing they would appoint a white candidate. As evidence Flores includes a text message from the New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick. In a text to Flores, reproduced by The Guardian, Belichick congratulated him on getting the New York Giants job.
Belichick later texted: “Sorry – I fucked this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that.” Two days later Daboll was named the new Giants head coach.
“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,” the Giants said in a statement on Tuesday. “Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”