NEW YORK — Fired Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three of its teams Tuesday, saying racist hiring practices by the league have left it racially segregated and managed like a plantation.
The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court sought class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals.
Flores was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
“God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals,” Flores said in a release put out by the law firm representing him in the case. “In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”
The lawsuit alleged that the league has discriminated against Flores and other black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.
“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” the lawsuit said.
“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,” it added.
The NFL released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying the lawsuit's claims are "without merit."
"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations," the statement read. "Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
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The lawsuit includes text messages from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick congratulating Flores for getting the Giants job when Flores had yet to interview for it. The texts were apparently mistakenly sent to Brian Flores and intended for former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who the Giants hired last week for the head coach position.
Other bombshells in the lawsuit include Flores alleging that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for every loss in the 2019 season in order to get a better draft position.
"During 2019 season, Miami owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss and the team’s GM, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that “Steve” was “mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”
The New York Giants put out a statement in light of the lawsuit saying Flores was in the conversation to be the Giants head coach "until the eleventh hour."
“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. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”
In the lawsuit, Flores calls the Giants interview process a "sham" through which he was "humiliated."
The Denver Broncos are also named in the lawsuit, as Flores alleges that before getting the Dolphins job in 2019, he interviewed with the Denver Broncos, a meeting for which he claims then-general manager John Elway was an hour late and appeared to be hungover.
Additionally, the lawsuit also accuses the Houston Texans of discriminatory treatment of former head coach David Culley, who is Black. The Texans fired Culley in January after one season.
There is currently only one black head coach in the NFL, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin. The Vikings, Texans, Saints and Jaguars jobs remain open as of writing.
Check back for updates as this story develops.
Cameron LaFontaine of the Locked On Podcast Network and TEGNA digital contributed to this report