The recent events surrounding former Miami Dolphin head coach Brian Flores have brought into question the NFL’s sincerity in addressing the topic of diversity. Flores was released from the Dolphins shortly after the season ended and posting another won/lost record above .500. What has since resulted according to Brian, is blatant racism in team hiring procedures for black candidates.
Comparing the league to plantation ownership, Brian has filed a class-action lawsuit. In doing so, he is opening the door for more minorities who have sought employment as head coaches or pursued front office jobs to join in on the suit. Brian has clearly stated that if he has coached his last game in the NFL, it is the sacrifice he is willing to take to make it better for the next black candidate. In his lawsuit he has laid out the statistics relating to the number of black coaches and front office personnel in comparison to the percentage of players of color on the field:
- 70 percent of all NFL players are black.
- Of the 32 teams, there is only one head coach in the game that is black, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburg Steelers.
- Of all the NFL assistant coaches only 35 percent are black.
- In front office decision-making personnel, only 12 percent are black, this includes General Managers and Vice Presidents.
- There is 0 percent black ownership of the 32 teams in the NFL.
Brian Flores further detailed in his lawsuit that in 2019, Dolphin owner Stephen Ross approached him to lose games in order to gain a high draft pick in 2020. As a footnote, the team with the worst won/loss record will have the first pick in the upcoming collegiate draft. Brian states he was offered $100,000 a game to lose by Ross. Taken aback by the offer, Ross attacked his integrity not only as a man of principle but as leader of the team. Flores feels that at that time, he lost trust in the ownership and felt ultimately that denying that offer led to his demise.
Tanking games is a serious issue and if proven, Ross should be removed as an owner in the NFL and face legal charges. In a similar situation, former NFL head coach Hugh Jackson, who as of this writing has yet the join the class action suit, states he was also approached by the Cleveland Brown’s ownership to tank games.
Another area that Brian addressed in his documentation is sham interviews, citing the Denver Broncos and New York Giants in his case specifically. In his interview with the Broncos, he considered it a fiasco stating that John Elway and his staff were an hour late for the meeting and appeared to be hungover. To him, it was just an exercise to suffice the Rooney Rule which mandates teams interview diverse candidates for open positions. Brian went on to interview with the Giants and shortly thereafter received a text from Bill Belichick congratulating him on getting the job. After qualifying the text with Bill, it became apparent that Belichick had mistakenly reached out to Brian and not the one they had hired already—Brian Daboil.
In adding my two cents, I believe that the overt racial stance within the NFL shouldn’t be tolerated or ignored. As a black man who embraces the game of football, I’m personally tired of the same old song that they are really working towards diversity and inclusiveness. Some examples of the duplicity are the racist stance of the old Washington Redskins team who just recently changed their name; to the 1964 AFL All-Star Game when the blacks on the teams were banned from white hotels and restaurants; to the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick; to the kneeling on the field during the national anthem by players in silent protest to call attention to the issues of racial inequality and police brutality—and now this new trouble with Brian Flores. How can anyone believe that the NFL is changing its tune? The owners of the NFL have made a gazillion dollars on the backs of the predominately 70 percent black players on the field.
In my opinion, I am in agreement with Brian that they are operating on a plantation approach of “owning” the players as their property with the commissioner’s office functioning as an overseer deciding on who works in the field and who works in the big house. Is this a fair statement to make, as players can quit the game if they don’t like their handling? But why should they? They’ve worked all their lives to get where they are on skill and merit so why should they have to sacrifice by quitting? All they are asking for is fairness and a chance to succeed within an equal playing field.
And this brings me to another question; why did Stephen Ross think he could ask this coach to lose games for money? Is he of the belief by some that African American males are born with a criminal nature and not worthy of having integrity? Did Ross have an inherent racial bias in that he thought Brian would take him up on the offer of $100,000 because of that tilt?
So, what can be or should be done? I believe the remedy is simply for players of color to take a stand and embrace their position of powe – the wheel doesn’t turn without the spokes. But it would take a real movement of solidarity advocating for change in diversity of the hiring procedures and a push for more black faces in the owner’s box. The question is, do the players have it in them to make the sacrifice? Will we, the fans, support them?
I tip my hat to Brian Flores for standing up to the NFL machine. Will it make a difference—let’s hope so. Like Curt Flood in baseball and Colin Kaepernick, we appreciate his effort.