Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ lawyers issued a statement blaming the Houston Texans’ decision not to hire him on his racial discrimination class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Dolphins. Flores was a finalist for the Texans and New Orleans Saints’ jobs, but the Texans hired Lovie Smith, who is Black.

Brian Flores misses out on Texans job

Flores called the Texans to emotionally thank them for a serious interview, including a second meeting with them in Houston. He has a strong relationship with general manager Nick Caserio and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby.

“Mr. Flores is happy to hear that the Texans have hired a Black head coach, Lovie Smith, as Mr. Flores’ goal in bringing his case is to provide real opportunities for Black and minority candidates to be considered for coaching and executive positions within the NFL,” the statement said.

“However, we would be remiss not to mention that Mr. Flores was one of three finalists for the Texans’ head coach position and, after a great interview and mutual interest, it is obvious that the only reason Mr. Flores was not selected was his decision to stand up against racial inequality across the NFL.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a memo to all 32 teams’ chief executives and team presidents, acknowledged that the league has a long way to go in terms of improving diversity.

Roger Goodell issues memo on diversity

That’s especially true when it comes to head coaching positions, which includes just five minorities: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is Black; New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent; Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic; Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who is multiracial; and Smith.

Goodell issued this memo Saturday morning in the wake of Flores filing a class-action lawsuit against the NFL. The suit alleges discrimination in the interview and hiring processes and in his dismissal from the AFC East franchise. Flores has also sued the Dolphins, Broncos, and Giants.

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on diversity: ‘Head coach, the results have been unacceptable’

“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values,” Goodell wrote. “We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs, which have produced positive change in many areas. However, we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches, the results have been unacceptable. We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines, and initiatives relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including as they relate to gender.

“We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week. While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Head coaching hiring cycle has included minorities

Steelers owner and team president Art Rooney II did emphasize that three of the seven general managers hired during this year’s cycle are minorities, in addition to two assistant general managers.

“While I acknowledge that we have not seen progress in the ranks of Head Coaches, we have seen marked improvement in the hiring of women and minorities in other key leadership roles such as Coordinator positions, General Manager positions, and front office positions both in and out of football operations,” Rooney II said in a statement. “I believe this progress has been made as a result of the implementation of many of the enhanced policies that were recently adopted.”

Besides Tomlin, both of the Steelers’ internal general manager candidates are minorities. Vice president of football operations Omar Khan is Hispanic. Pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt is Black.

Is the Rooney Rule working?

NFL teams must interview two external minority candidates for head coach, general manager, and coordinator positions. They must conduct an in-person interview with at least one external minority candidate for head coaching and general manager jobs.

“Over the past several years, our Diversity Committee has recommended, and Ownership has adopted, a number of enhancements to the Rooney Rule, as well as new policies designed to ensure that women and minorities are receiving full and fair consideration for coaching and front office positions,” Rooney II said.

“The Commissioner and League Executives, as well as the Diversity Committee, remain committed to working with all clubs, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, and others in making these efforts as effective as possible and building upon them to promote the desired impacts on hiring decisions in the League at all levels, including Head Coach positions.”

Flores alleges he’s been the victim of discrimination

Meanwhile, Flores has made unconfirmed accusations against the Broncos and the Giants of conducting “sham interviews.”

Flores’ lawsuit includes screen-grabbed text messages from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, his former boss. Those messages indicated Belichick understood that the Giants intended to hire Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as the replacement for Joe Judge. Flores accused Broncos executives John Elway and Joe Ellis of arriving late and drinking heavily the night before their meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Broncos have strongly denied those allegations. So has the NFL, the Giants, and the Dolphins, whose owner, Stephen Ross, was accused of incentivizing tanking.

“The allegations from Brian Flores directed toward the Denver Broncos in today’s court filing are blatantly false,” the Broncos said in a statement. “Our interview with Mr. Flores regarding our head coaching position began promptly at the scheduled time of 7:30 AM on Jan. 5, 2019, in a Providence, Rhode Island, hotel. Five Broncos executives were present for the interview, which lasted approximately three-and-a-half hours — the fully allotted time — and concluded shortly before 11 AM.

“Pages of detailed notes, analysis, and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate. Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position. The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization — and its employees — from such baseless and disparaging claims.”

Dolphins, Giants refute Flores’ claims

The Dolphins, in a statement, denied Flores’ accusations.

“The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect,” the team said.

And the Giants said: “We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”

Flores’ response to Goodell’s memo

In response to Goodell’s memo, Flores’ legal team issued the following statement criticizing the NFL’s response as a “public relations ploy”:

“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. 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, all while letting systemic racial bias fester in its front offices. The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again, and that is precisely why the 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.”

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