It is absolutely bananas that in 2022, in a league where 70 percent of its players are Black, there’s exactly one Black head coach, representing a whopping 3.1 percent of the league’s coaches. There have only been 32 Black head coaches in the league since 1989. Six teams have never hired a Black head coach. A big part of that reason is that owners make the ultimate hiring decisions, and there has never been a Black majority owner in the NFL.
In 2002, after two Black head coaches (Tony Dungy and Dennis Green) were fired despite a history of success — the team that Dungy built would win the Super Bowl the next year under a white Head Coach, Jon Gruden (fired last year for … racist and homophobic remarks in leaked emails) — the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule, which was designed to give Black candidates more opportunities to fill head coaching vacancies. When an NFL team has a vacancy, they are required to interview a Black candidate. Mostly, however, the Rooney Rule is a formality. Teams might have to interview Black candidates, but it made them no more likely to hire them.
This reality was essentially proven in a lawsuit filed by Brian Flores, a Black head coach who was inexplicably fired by the Miami Dolphins at the end of this season despite the fact that the Dolphins finished with two consecutive winning seasons for the first time in nearly 20 years, and the fact that Flores turned the team around from a 1-7 team to a 9-8 team in 2021 after a seven-game winning streak. It’s also worth noting that Flores claims in his lawsuit that the Dolphins owner allegedly offered Flores $100,000 for every game he tanked so that the Dolphins could improve their draft position, which is a huge no-no, particularly because the Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was furious with Flores because winning games — the thing he was hired to do — was compromising their draft position.
But back to the Rooney Rule being a sham. The evidence that Flores offered to support that contention is this text exchange (screenshots which are available on the Internet) between himself and New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick:
Belichick: Sounds like you have landed — congrats!!
Flores: Did you hear something I didn’t?
Flores: I interview on Thursday
Flores: I think I have a shot at it
Belichick: Got it — I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!!
Flores: That’s definitely what I want! I hope you’re right coach. Thank you
Flores: Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll? Just making sure.
Belichick: Sorry — I fucked this up. I double-checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. Sorry about that. BB
Flores: Thanks Bill
Belichick inadvertently reveals to Flores that Daboll had landed the New York Giants gig days before Flores had even interviewed, which — again — is required under the Rooney Rule. Obviously, they were never even going to give Flores a chance to win the job. The Giants had made up their mind before they’d even interviewed the former Dolphins coach.
In a humiliating act of alleged racism, Mr. Flores was forced to sit for an extensive interview, knowing that the Giants had already chosen Brian Daboll, a white man, for the job.— WigdorLaw (@WigdorLaw) February 1, 2022
Mr. Flores now brings this class action to effectuate real change for the future.
Flores offers other evidence in support of the Rooney Rule sham, including the allegation that, in 2019, John Elway showed up an hour late and shitfaced for his interview with Flores for the Denver Broncos’ head coach position (Flores was not offered it).
Flores’ suit for racial discrimination seeks unspecified damages but also demands that the NFL increase the influence of Black individuals in hiring; increase “the objectivity” of hiring/terminating GMs, head coaches, and coordinators; increase the number of Black coordinators (which is often the pipeline to head coaching positions); incentivize hiring/retention of Black GMs, head coaches, and coordinators, and provide more transparency of pay for GMs, head coaches, and coordinators.
Flores, meanwhile, is still in the running for a head coaching position in either Texas or New Orleans. Whether filing this lawsuit against the NFL will affect his chances remains to be seen.