Two months after NFL racism trial, why Brian Flores has already won

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Fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores (right) accuses club owner Stephen Ross (left) of offering bribes to lose games in 2019 in a bombshell lawsuit filed in federal court from New York.

dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Two months after filing the lawsuit that rocked the NFL, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has already won.

He may never “win” the lawsuit alleging systemic racism in the league’s hiring practices. Ironically, the claim could be seen weakening with each subsequent minority hire — including his own by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.

But there is an echo of the trial, a victory with every hire, even if Flores never gets his day in court and the clear verdict he wants.

Flores’ biggest victory was simply taking the sport’s most important stance for racial equality since Colin Kaepernick took a knee. To shine a spotlight, with all its heat.

Of course, the explosive subtext of his lawsuit was the damning allegations against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who is currently under investigation by the NFL. One of them is lying. Both double. The result is big and smart on an otherwise promising Dolphins next season.

The impact of what Flores dared to do two months ago, symbolically on the first day of Black History Month, is worth exploring on both fronts.

The coach, fired by Miami despite an 8-1 win last season and the club’s first straight years of wins since 2002-03, called for challenging America’s favorite sport of its historic scarcity, especially black head coaches. There are currently three among the 32 teams: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, who just bailed Flores out of what some feared was blackball purgatory as Kaepernick suffered; Lovie Smith, newly hired by Houston; and Todd Bowles, who was just promoted by the Bucs – the latest two apparent ripples in Flores’ cannonball suit.

There are only three other head coaches of color and only two teams run by minority owners.

Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL named the Dolphins for his firing as well as the New York Giants and Denver Broncos for alleged ‘mock’ interviews of him to satisfy the league’s largely toothless Rooney rule , designed to include minority candidates in the teams’ head coach. hiring process.

The fact that Miami has a black general manager, Chris Grier, is another reason why winning the suit itself could be difficult. Another is that the man who replaced Flores, Mike McDaniel, has a black father and identifies as multiracial. Interestingly, Miami was the only team to interview McDaniel. To note that Ross’ team hiring a multiracial coach helped his defense against the lawsuit might be cynical. That could also be correct.

In any case, American jurisprudence works slowly. Take your time. It’s a maze of delays.

We see it big and nationwide as the House Select Committee investigates the January 6 insurrection on the United States Capitol 15 months ago.

We see it small and local as the City of Miami Commission delays – yet again – a vote on Inter Miami’s proposed Freedom Park stadium.

We see it in a thousand courtrooms in between.

You cannot rush love or the pursuit of justice.

In the meantime. Flores has already won because, for example, after Commissioner Roger Goodell first called Flores’ lawsuit “without merit”, he immediately realized how absurd the dismissal seemed, pivoted and admitted the evidence – that the NFL’s record for diversified coaching teams was “unacceptable”. .”

Tomlin at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach this week said, “I don’t have a level of confidence that would make me believe things are going to get better.”

The pessimism is understandable, but the impact of Flores’ costume has been undeniable.

As a direct result of the lawsuit, all 32 teams starting the upcoming season must have at least one person who is “female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” on their offensive squad. That’s because it’s a pipeline to becoming an offensive coordinator, the position teams seek most in head coaching searches.

As another direct result of the lawsuit, the NFL engaged outside experts to independently assess and review the NFL’s diversity, equality and inclusion policy. In a private league memo to the one reported by The Athletic, Goodell wrote: “We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores.”

Small steps, yes. But move on anyway.

More important to Miami is the part of the lawsuit in which Flores directly targets Ross, claiming the owner bribed him with a $100,000 bonus offer for games lost in 2019 in a subverted effort to secure himself the first. draft pick. Flores says he turned down that offer, along with Ross’s invitation to be involved in the tampering in the pursuit of an unnamed “prominent quarterback,” who would later be Tom Brady.

It drove the rift between owner and coach so deep that it might explain why a popular coach with a consecutive winning season might be fired. When that happened, Flores said he turned down “millions” by refusing to sign a nondisclosure agreement when he was fired, an agreement he said would have “shushed me.”

Ross vehemently denies Flores’ allegations, calling them “false, malicious and defamatory.”

Flores doubles down, saying his legal team “corroborated” his claims.

Someone is outright lying.

If it’s Flores, he could face a libel suit.

If it’s Ross, he could be shamed out as the owner of the Dolphins.

Ross wants his case heard in open court. The NFL and Ross prefer to go to closed arbitration. The idea of ​​a silent settlement seems unlikely.

No one knows how it all unfolds. Either way, it’s likely to be a dark shadow over the coming season – a season otherwise rife with optimism.

After two years of straight wins, Miami is coming off a big offseason led by the blockbuster trade of All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Friday’s huge contract extension for Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard. Tua Tagovailoa enters Year 3 with big guns and no excuses. McDaniel is enjoying his honeymoon as a new coach, becoming the potential Next Big Thing.

The team must be exciting. But what happens off the pitch can be just as captivating.

That’s because a man’s lawsuit called out the NFL for systemic racism and branded the Miami Dolphins owner corrupt.

The result – the truth no matter where it lands – seems to be the legacy of Brian Flores’ football life.

This story was originally published April 1, 2022 3:42 p.m.

Greg Cote is a sports columnist for the Miami Herald who in 2021 was named one of the top 10 column writers by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also hosts The Greg Cote Show podcast and appears regularly on The Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz.

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