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Brian Flores’ attorneys respond to statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

Matt Johnson
Brian Flores, NFL
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Days after the National Football League emphatically denied claims made by coach Brian Flores in a class-action lawsuit, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in a memo that the lack of head coach diversity is unacceptable. Now, Flores’ attorneys have responded.

Goodell’s statement said the league would examine its current policies regarding the hiring process and would consult with outside experts for insight on areas to improve.

However, Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, representing the former Miami Dolphins head coach, highlighted called the memo a “public relations ploy’ that only came after the NFL immediately denied Flores’ allegations without even conducting an investigation.

“Unfortunately, immediately after Coach Flores filed the class action lawsuit, the NFL and various teams reflexively, and without any investigation, denied the detailed allegations set forth in the 60 page complaint.  As a result, when we spoke to the national media the following day we made clear that the NFL should view this class action lawsuit as an opportunity to engage in real change and confront the obvious reality.  The statement made today by the Commissioner is, on the surface, a positive first step, but we suspect that this is more of a public relations ploy than a real commitment to change.”

Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis, attorneys for Brian Flores, on the statement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

In the 60-page suit filed by Flores on Tuesday, the 40-year-old coach accused the Denver Broncos and New York Giants of conducting sham interviews to satisfy the Rooney Rule and accused Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross of offering Flores $100,000 for every loss.

The NFL immediately denied the claims it called meritless, vowing to defend against them. Furthermore, the league’s statement also said the league is making progress in providing ‘equitable opportunities throughout our organizations’ and said “diversity is core” to everything the NFL does.

But Goodell acknowledged Saturday that teams have fallen short when it regards having a diverse field of head coaches. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is the only active Black head coach remaining in the NFL. Of the nine NFL head-coaching vacancies this offseason, five white coaches were hired and the Minnesota Vikings (Kevin O’Connell) will become the sixth after the Super Bowl.

In its response to Goodell, Flores’ attorneys pointed to systemic racial bias that remains in front offices across the NFL and said the league is “rolling out the same playbook” that it uses each time the lack of diversity and a racially-biased hiring process are brought to attention.

“For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, as well as law firms and experts that purport to be unbiased and independent, but are paid for by the NFL.  All the while, systemic racial bias has festered in the NFL’s front offices.  The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed.  We would be pleased to talk to the Commissioner about real change, but unfortunately, he has not reached out to us to engage in such a discussion.  In fact, nobody from the NFL has reached out to us. Absent such a discussion followed by unbiased and concrete change, we believe that a court or governmental agency must order a federal monitor to oversee the NFL as the NFL cannot continue to police itself.”

Brian Flores’ attorneys on NFL’s hiring process, interest in speaking to league officials

Flores remains a candidate for the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans’ coaching vacancies. However, the finalists for the Texans’ coaching search also include former NFL quarterback Josh McCown. Just a year removed from retirement, McCown has never coached at the college or professional level. If McCown is hired, it would further strengthen doubts about the NFL having an equitable hiring process.

Given multiple minority coaches across the NFL have privately shared with reporters that they have similar experiences to Flores and share similar feelings about the hiring process, the class-action lawsuit could grow as the offseason unfolds.