Amidst Super Bowl excitement, Brian Flores lawsuit prompts interrogation of the NFL

GVL Archives

GVL Archives

Feb. 13 marked the 56th Super Bowl. It’s a longstanding American tradition. On Feb. 1 however, former National Football League coach Brian Flores filed suit against the NFL which outlined another long standing institution in this country. 

Flores accused the league— and three individual teams— of discriminating against Black coaches and prospective hires. 

Flores cites communications with general manager and coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belicheck, and owner of the Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross. Over text, Belicheck accidentally informed Flores that the NFL had decided on hiring Brian Daboll as head coach of the New York Giants— days before Flores was supposed to interview for the position. 

Ross allegedly asked Flores— when he was coaching the Dolphins— to tank the season so they would be in a better position for the draft. Flores led the team through a successful season, and was promptly fired. 

Flores also alleges that when he was in contention for the head coaching position with the Denver Broncos, he was met with unprofessionalism. 

Flores’ lawsuit also cites the racially segregated hierarchy of the NFL, with the majority of players being people of color and the majority of leadership positions being filled by white coaches, managers and owners. Currently, there are only two Black head coaches in the NFL: Mike Tomlin and Lovie Smith. 

For generations, NFL teams have been owned by rich, white families. Change starts from the top and the NFL even introduced the Rooney Rule which requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for head coaching and general manager positions. Flore’s lawsuit outlines exactly what the Rooney Rule is: not a mechanism to give minority candidates legitimate chances to earn a head coaching position, but a filter to shield the way the NFL has been operating for decades.

Many fans on social media have criticized Flores, saying his lawsuit is just because he wasn’t able to land another head coaching position – even after three successful seasons with the Miami Dolphins. To be clear, Flores is a good head coach. Players and coaches around the league agree. His lawsuit isn’t a personal attack against the NFL – it’s a selfless one. 

Flores has put his career on the line to expose the NFL’s systemic racism. In a league where the majority of players are Black, Flores is interrogating a system where white coaches are given more opportunities. 

“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation. Its 32 owners—none of whom are Black—profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black,” Flores’ said in his complaint against the NFL. “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.”  

The Super Bowl is over now. And throughout this week, sports media will examine and re-examine the game. Instead, as Black History Month continues, sports media and fans should spend their time critically thinking about the systemic issues embedded in the NFL, and support Flores in his attempt to expose them.