Brian Flores lawsuit rocks the NFL
Brian Flores is suing the NFL for racial discrimination, alleging Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross bribed him to “tank” in 2019.
“I don’t see the color.”
When people bring up issues of race, this phrase comes up most often.
And if you got that response from (at least) a few of the NFL’s 32 owners, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
But maybe they need to see the color.
They would see five black general managers, including Chris Grier of the Miami Dolphins
They would see a black head coach.
And they wouldn’t see any black owners.
For all the numbers that can be thrown around when it comes to a league where the overwhelming majority of players are black, the number of owners stands out the most.
In the wake of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit and allegations of racial discrimination during the NFL hiring process — not to mention charges against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — ownership of the team gets to the root of the problem.
The idea that an owner would pay his coach $100,000 per loss in a bid to tank and get the No. 1 overall pick seems outrageous – as Dolphins fans shouted ‘Tank for Tua’ in 2019 to make anything to get that coveted spot. Don’t think Ross was the only person who complained when the Dolphins went 5-11 to earn the fifth overall pick. With the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (Joe Burrow) leading the Bengals to Super Bowl 56 on Feb. 13, short-term memory loss and revisionist history blame Flores for earning too much this season.
The lawsuit states: “The team’s general manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that ‘Steve’ was ‘crazy’ that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was ‘compromising’. [the team’s] draft post.
He further says, “In fact, Mr. Flores was eventually fired and then vilified in the media, and the League because he was branded by the Dolphins brass as someone who was difficult to work with. This reflects the all-too-familiar “angry black man” stigma that is often thrown at black men who are strong in their morals and beliefs while white men are coined as passionate.
Before the fictitious line is drawn to defend Ross or kick him out of the NFL, let’s take an honest look at the situation.
People generally feel more comfortable working with like-minded people who have similar worldviews and values. NFL owners range in age from Virginia McCaskey (99) of the Chicago Bears to Clark Hunt (56) of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both took over these old-school teams – they inherited them. Only three of the owners are under 60.
That means many of those owners, including Ross (at 81), are the same age or older than Ruby Bridges at 67, who desegregated a New Orleans school in 1960.
They witnessed the civil rights era up close.
Many remember the “I have a dream speech” in person.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 were life changing moments in turbulent times when people took sides.
Kind of like today.
Although many racial barriers have been broken down since that time, remember that I still live in a state where the Nazis are still holding rallies. There are still a significant number of people whose thinking has not changed.
There are NFL teams that do a lot of good for the community. For example, the Dolphins led the league in community service hours in 2019 and fed thousands at the height of the pandemic.
But while it’s laudable that teams make a difference in the fabric of the community, it’s about opportunities in a franchise’s primary function, football.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Marcus Spears, who played nine seasons in the NFL for the Cowboys and Ravens, said, “The owners of the NFL are the ones who determine who will be the head coaches of their football teams. And they have no incentive to hire black coaches, minority coaches, because they’re not accountable to anyone. “
The Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for the head coach and general manager positions, is well-intentioned but has little teeth. It is named after Dan Rooney, chairman of the league’s diversity committee and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers currently have the only black head coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin, who has never had a losing season since being hired in 2007 at age 34.
NFL owners have mastered — and scoffed at — the art of fulfilling Rooney’s demands since his enactment in 2003 by interviewing minorities while hiring the person they have in mind. People who look like them and share similar backgrounds.
The spirit of the rule, to ensure minority candidates for coaching and general manager positions, is a sham because the owners of the NFL do it that way. You cannot force compliance without penalty.
Whether you believe the lawsuit, the idea that legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick mistakenly praised Flores instead of Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for getting the New York Giants coaching job by Texting before his interview is unfortunate at best and overwhelming at worst.
Daboll, who did a great job with Buffalo, was eventually hired, just as Belichick indicated in the script.
Daboll is a worthy recruit who deserves his chance to lead like so many others.
But I find it hard to believe that in a league that is between 60% and 70% black, there is only one black head coach among 32 positions.
There are five openings left and we may never see Flores again as NFL head coach (we’re still waiting for Colin Kaepernick to return to kneel during the national anthem).
In the short term, we could see a minority hiring in part to appease critics.
But in the long run, until the NFL becomes a minority, it would be foolish to expect the status quo to change.
John Devine is the Miami Herald’s executive sports editor.
This story was originally published February 2, 2022 10:52 a.m.