NFL Lawsuit Shines Spotlight on Racial Discrimination

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 2, 2022

In a high-profile case that is sure to put renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores yesterday filed a lawsuit alleging the National Football League (NFL) and several individual teams systematically discriminated against him and other Black personnel.

Flores claims the NFL violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act, as well as state and local discrimination laws, in a wide variety of employment decisions including hiring, promotions, retention, compensation and more.

He also accuses the New York Giants of granting him a "sham interview" with no intention of actually hiring him in an attempt to appear to comply with Rooney Rule, which requires every team with a vacancy for head coach, general manager and other front-office positions to interview at least one or more diverse candidates before making a new hire. As evidence, Flores cited a text message he received from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, which accidentally disclosed that another Brian (Brian Daboll) had already been selected for the job three days before Flores was to interview with the Giants.

In addition to seeking monetary damages, Flores also is asking the court to order the NFL to, among other things:

  • Give Black individuals greater influence in hiring and termination decisions for head coach jobs and other key positions;
  • Increase the objectivity of hiring and termination decisions for key positions; and
  • Increase the number of Black Offensive and Defensive Coordinators.

In a statement, the NFL said Flores's claims are without merit and that it intends to defend itself against them. "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. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time.

There is currently only one Black head coach in the NFL (Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin) despite the fact that nearly 60% of the league's players identify as Black or African-American.