NFL gives defense against black coach discrimination lawsuit

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NEW YORK — The NFL tells a judge there are several reasons why a lawsuit brought against it by three black coaches who allege racist hiring practices should fail.

In the letter released Thursday ahead of an initial hearing before a federal judge in Manhattan, the league said it would either ask that the claims of coach Brian Flores and two other coaches be forced into arbitration or dismissed without trial. because they lack legal basis. .

The letter was jointly prepared by attorneys for the coaches and the NFL to advise the judge of each side’s positions ahead of the May 2 hearing.

Flores, who was fired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in January, alleged in his lawsuit that the NFL’s racist hiring practices, particularly for coaches and general managers, had left the league ‘racically plagued’ even as she publicly condemned her.

The other two coaches – Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – joined Flores in the lawsuit earlier this month.

Flores, who led the Dolphins to a 24-25 record in three years, was fired after the Dolphins went 9-8 last year for the second straight season. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs during Flores’ tenure, despite winning 10 games in 2020.

Flores has since been hired as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL attorneys wrote in the letter that the league and its teams deny the lawsuit allegations, which include claims that Flores underwent a “mock interview” with the Denver Broncos in which team officials are shown an hour late and were cast as the “Angry Blacks”. man” by the Dolphins after refusing to violate recruiting and tank rules for a better draft pick.

“Defendants did not discriminate against Complainants (or the black coaches and general managers they claim to represent) on the basis of their race, and Defendants did not retaliate against Mr. Flores for having filed this lawsuit,” the attorneys said.

They sought “numerous defenses” to the claims in the lawsuit, including jurisdictional, venue and statute of limitations defenses, but said the coaches must arbitrate their claims under the terms of employment contracts with the NFL and its teams. They noted that the Dolphins had already informed Flores’ attorneys that his claims were subject to arbitration.

But even if the lawsuit continues, the claims “would lack legal basis under the relevant laws”, the letter said.

He cited several reasons, including that coaches would have to prove that they would not have suffered the alleged discrimination if they were not black.

“Mr. Flores himself alleges that he was fired by the Dolphins for reasons clearly unrelated to his race, including his alleged refusal to intentionally lose games or violate NFL rules,” the authors wrote. lawyers.

As for other coaches, attorneys for the league said they did not identify any particular employment practice that would disparately impact black coaches or coach candidates.

In the same letter, attorneys for Flores and the other coaches said they would oppose NFL plans to force arbitration or drop the case.

They said the NFL rejected their proposal to use mediation with the inclusion of a neutral third party, including retired federal judges and members of the legal and civil rights community.

NFL attorneys wrote in response, however, that the league and its teams are “committed to ongoing efforts to improve diversity among coaches and staff, and would welcome the involvement of plaintiffs and other black coaches and executives.” in these endeavors”.

Larry Neumeister reports for The Associated Press.

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