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Brian Flores Sues the NFL. Will He Win?

In the days after his firing, Brian Flores and his lawyers had started the process of putting together a class action lawsuit against the NFL.  He is alleging that there are prejudice hiring practices and systemically racist issues with regard to NFL employment.  After breaking down the immense amount of information and legal jargon, I wanted to present the information in a more concise manner to our patrons.

Apparently Coach Flo’s issue with 305’s teal and orange began far away from Hard Rock stadium (the “Rock” to fans, the “Hard” to the IYKYK crowd).  Upon Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross’ yacht.  Brian Flores was asked to meet with a surprise guest who turned out to be Tom Brady. Flores, insulted and infuriated by the ruse, left the yacht immediately.  It’s important to note that according to some (though in dispute) this would technically be in violation of the league’s tampering rules as Tom Brady was not yet a free agent at the time.  Brady would leave that meeting immediately and based on comments he made on Lebron James’ show: “The Shop”.  He allegedly told the owner (now reported to be Ross) “You’re sticking with that m@ther-f*cker?”

This is just one of the improprieties that are being alleged against Miami.  Brian Flores was also allegedly offered 100’000$ per loss to tank in his initial season.  Brian Flores refused and was eventually informed by general manager Chris Grier that this angered Stephen Ross.  While the tampering would lead to a slap on the wrist, this allegation is damning and some are stipulating may lead to Ross losing his team.  Professional sports in the US lagged behind Canada and Europe when it came to legalized sports betting.  While it was an open secret that people would place bets in dark alleys or using VPNs, American Pro Sports have finally made the leap over Johnny Hustle and into the world of legalized gamlbing.  Tanking by having an inferior roster is one thing, playing/coaching a game with the intention to lose jeopardizes the large influx of capital brought forward by gamblers. 

I’ve been on the record that while I didn’t think Brian Flores was a bad coach but also, was not surprised by his firing.  On the surface, many of his decisions showed an unwillingness to support 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa.  Moreover, and equally damning is Flores’ inability to build an offensive coaching staff.  The team went from Chad O’Shea, to the husk of Chan Gailey and then finally opted for George Godsey and Eric Studesville as co-OC’s this season.  That’s right, the Dolphins had two offensive coordinators this season.  Furthermore, the team’s offensive line seemed to get worse during his tenure.  It seemed logical to me that with Tua’s extension looming on the horizon the team would want to bring in an offensive minded coach in order to make a decision on the young southpaw.

So, above listed is the case against Brian Flores that is rooted in fact, and is an undeniable failing.  What followed in the days after Flores’ firing was a smear campaign by the Miami Dolphins that seemed gratuitous and entirely unnecessary.  Reports surfaced that Brian Flores was difficult to work with.  It is tough to decipher how much of this was a hit job and how much was accurate. The team dealt with Minka Fitzpatrick and Kenny Stills who were both dissonants who were eventually traded.  Rumors of Tua Tagovailoa leaving Flores office while screaming “You can’t treat people this way” has been corroborated. However, stories of Brian Flores playing favorites, attempting to overthrow GM Chris Grier (despite having final say on player personnel) and not speaking to offensive coaches from Thanksgiving on whilst the team was on a winning streak seems at best to have been exaggerated by team leaks.  There seems to have been a concerted effort to spin the former Patriots hard-ass/angry black man narrative by the team. 

Of course, that last sentiment is conjecture.  You caught me, I used that last statement to excite some, anger some others and transition into the race discussion at hand.  Firstly, in discussions of race people tend to do two things that are extremely counter productive.  They, take general statements personally (though they’re intended to be general) and they look to see at whom the finger is pointed to determine if said person should/shouldn’t bear Cain’s mark of RACIST.  This is a very rudimentary approach and if this is your mindset, the 80’s called and they want their Reebok Pumps back (the originals were absolute fire to be fair). We’ve since learned that the experience of racism and the prevailing systemic issues are far more deleterious.

Here are some undeniable facts that there is a systemic race issue in the NFL.  At this moment, Mike Tomlin remains as the single remaining black head coach in the league.  Tomlin’s tenure is impressive and doing so with the Steelers for whom the Rooney Rule was created, is doubly monumental (more on the Rooney Rule later).  However, it’s important to note that Tomlin coaches for a very loyal franchise who only has three head coaches in their tenure.  He also has never finished below .500.  This level of excellence would be hard to move on from in any scenario.  On average, black head coaches have a shorter tenure than white head coaches with varying degrees of success.  While, this isn’t about specific coaches some examples are:

  • Steve Wilks, who was fired after a single year with the Cardinals. His successor Kliff Kingsbury coached for three seasons before eclipsing a .500 record 
  • Jim Caldwell, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl, was fired by the Lions after a surprisingly competitive 9-7 season and still hasn’t gotten another opportunity as a head coach.
  • Raheem Morris was fired by the Buccaneers after going 10-6
  • The most recent example is David Culley who’s team far exceeded expectations while fielding what was largely considered a terrible roster with controversy surrounding QB Deshaun Watson that kept the star player from playing a single game in 2021.

As for the opportunities in the first place, they seem hard to come by for black coaches.  Mike Tomlin himself was not considered for the Miami Dolphins head coaching vacancy as then CEO Joe Bailey considered Tomlin to be “too hip-hop”.  Notice the quotation marks.  This is because he said it himself, on Miami’s local radio station: 790 The Ticket.  It was also reported at the time by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald.  This has always been a funny concept to me as I seriously doubt Mike Tomlin would spend practice time delivering freestyle.

The bulk of position coaches and coordinators in the NFL were former players.  It is important to note that black players make up 70% of the league, yet as stated, at the time that I’m writing this article, only a single coach is black.  While it may be done without malice, the prevailing systemic notion is that the black man is worthy of being labor but not worthy of being management or worse, a leader.  

There are some who will point to the Rooney Rule and insist that the NFL is doing all it can.  Certainly, being asked to interview minority candidates is a start.  However, too often these interviews are done with no intent to hire a minority candidate.  In the case of Brian Flores, there are two damning allegations. Firstly, he alleged that the Denver Broncos’ General Manager John Elway was hungover interview (bruh…take a sick day, we’ve all been there).  At the very least, this shows a lack of professionalism on behalf of the Hall of Fame quarterback.  At worst, this shows a disrespect for the candidate.  While it doesn’t indicate that Elway was “hungover because Flores is black” as some defend, it indicates that this interview was a sham.  

The second sham interview was scheduled by the New York Giants.  This story became public when Patriots coach Bill Belechick texted  “coach Brian” to congratulate him on getting the Giants Job and that he had heard from the Giants that his former assistant was getting the job.  Flores initially thanked Belechick then, after some deliberation asked if he meant to send the text to Brian Daboll.  Belechick apologized and said that he did in fact intend to send the text to Daboll. 

Initially, this is an unfortunate but somewhat comical case of an old man misusing technology.  Between the jokes and memes of Bill Belechick mistaking “Black Brian” for “White Brian” and perhaps the NFL’s greatest coach being reduced to common Grandpa status by his poor texting etiquette, the initial response by many, including myself, was laughter.  The details were then revealed that Belechick accidentally sent this text to Flores (a Brooklyn native) three days before his interview with the Giants. This is the vile side of the Rooney Rule. Subjecting minorities to interviews for jobs they would never be considered for is truly degrading and humiliating.

As for the lawsuit itself, on a personal note, I do hope it moves forward as it will force discovery and may unearth some of the rotting underbelly in our favorite sport.  However, the issue does seem to be that the attempt is to process this as a class.  It’s difficult to explain why this is unlikely in a few paragraphs is difficult but if you bear with me I’ll do my best.  If several thousand people bought a fridge from Fridge Corp. and that fridge was setting fire to homes, the people who bought that fridge could be defined as a class and take the company that they bought the fridge from to court and rather than each patron suing the company individually, they can do so as a group.  That is simple enough to understand.  However, the class of coaches is in itself difficult to determine as coaches exist beyond just the head coach.  There are position coaches, strength coaches, coordinators etc. and some teams have positions that do not exist on other teams.  Then the class would need to be subdivided as minority coaches.  

The final layer of complexity exists that while the NFL is an organization unto itself, this suit attempts to sue all 32 teams who operate somewhat independently.  Going back to our initial analogy.  It would be as if Fridgecorp was an entity owned by 32 different Fridge Manufacturers, who operated in concert but were also independent.  

Even if granted as a class, the Judge would have to decide if it is an opt-in class action or an opt-out class action.  In all likelihood this would be categorized as an opt-in class action suit.  This means rather than assuming all minority coaches are part of the class unless specifically opted-out, coaches would have to potentially sacrifice their careers to opt-in to said lawsuit.

While this does stir up important debate and Brian Flores is setting fire to a promising career with the opportunity to burn the entire ship with him, it seems unlikely that this lawsuit will see the light of day.  At best we’re to hope that there will be some depositions and that discovery will become public.  As for how to fix the problem.  There isn’t an easy solution.  One thing is for certain and it’s that people are more at ease hiring people with whom they share a culture or have much in common with.  Until we see black ownership in the NFL we will likely struggle see progress in this realm.

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