Over the past few years the NFL has taken steps to improve its record on social justice issues. However, the league still comes up short when it comes to placing African Americans in leadership positions on its 32 teams.
Brian Flores and David Culley, two of the three African American head coaches in the NFL, were both recently fired after their team’s seasons came to an end. Culley was the head coach of the Houston Texans, while Flores was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Currently, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the newly-hired Lovie Smith of the Texans are the only African American head coaches that remain in the NFL.
Besides Tomlin and Smith, the Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera, who is Latino, and the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, of Lebanese descent, are the only other non-white people in head coaching positions among the league’s franchises.
The Rooney Rule was originally introduced in 2003 by the NFL. It is a rule that changes the specifics with time, but ultimately aims to help give more opportunity to minority candidates for head coaching and football operations management positions.
It includes a requirement for each team to interview at least two external minority candidates for a vacant head coach, general manager or coordinator job. Teams must also conduct an in-person interview with at least one external minority candidate for any general manager or head coach position.
Unfortunately, the Rooney Rule might not always be truthfully implemented. Brian Flores has taken it upon himself to sue the NFL and three teams, including the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants, alleging discrimination regarding his interview processes with the Broncos and the Giants, and his firing last month by the Dolphins.
“The Rooney Rule is intended to give minorities the opportunity to sit down in front of ownership. I think what it’s turned into is an instance where guys are just checking a box,” Flores said on “CBS Mornings.” “I’ve been to some interviews in the past where I’ve had that feeling. There’s always no way to know for sure, but you know. I know I'm not alone in that.”
Flores has gone public with all the details of what he had experienced with each of the three teams he is currently suing.
He accused Broncos personnel of not taking his candidacy for their head coach position seriously in 2019, saying they arrived late for his interview and had been drinking heavily the night before. Flores believes that he was only interviewed to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
Flores accused Miami owner Stephen Ross of trying to incentivize him to lose games on purpose so the team could have a better draft position. One of these incentives included $100,000 for every loss that season. Flores refused, and led Miami to their first back-to-back winning seasons in decades. The team’s reason for his firing was alleged poor collaboration.
This past week, the New York Giants were exposed through text messages. Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ head coach, sent a congratulatory text to Flores, thinking Flores had gotten the Giants job. The issue was that Flores’ interview was still coming up and Belichick realized he sent the text to the wrong Brian. It was meant to go to former Bills’ offensive coordinator and new Giants’ coach Brian Daboll.
If Belichick sent the text to the right Brian this case would have never come to light. However, the text messages indicate the Giants had allegedly made their decision prior to Flores’ interview. Once again, leading Flores to believe that he was only interviewed to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
It is no shock that all of the NFL teams being sued have made PR statements. The Broncos and Giants believe that they were fair in their coaching search and that the accusations made by Flores are false. As for the Dolphins, they released a statement that they always approached the game with integrity.
Flores was also a candidate for the head coaching vacancies with the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints since his firing by the Dolphins. Yet it is now uncertain what the future will hold for Flores because he filed this suit.
No matter the outcome, there is no regret in his decision. “This isn’t about me. This is bigger than football,” Flores said in an interview on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“This is about equal opportunity for qualified Black candidates, not just in football, but everywhere.”