By: Parker Reynolds

On February 1, 2022, Brian Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a discrimination lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the National Football League (“NFL”), alleging “the NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators, and General Managers.”[1]  Flores seeks to represent a class of Black coaches, all of whom have allegedly faced discrimination.[2]  Of the thirty-two team owners, none are Black, as opposed to the 70% of players who are Black.[3]  With Flores gone, there is currently only one Black head coach in the league.[4]  In response to the lawsuit, the NFL claims that the organization is “deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices.”[5]

Flores’ complaint comes after the Miami Dolphins fired him last month despite record-breaking back-to-back winning seasons.[6]  The allegations of wrongdoing laid out in the complaint are three-fold.  First, Flores received a text message from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick suggesting that the NFL chose Brian Daboll to be the new Giants head coach before even conducting Flores’ interview.[7]   Second, Flores details what he believes was a “sham interview” for the Denver Broncos’ head coach position in which the team’s general manager showed up for the interview an hour late, and it was obvious that the interviewers were “drinking heavily the night before.”[8]  Third, Flores asserts that the Dolphins’ team owner offered him a bribe of $100,000 per loss, hoping that the Dolphins would lose enough games to procure the number one draft pick spot.[9]

These allegations call into question the NFL’s adherence to the Rooney Rule, a rule that was implemented in 2003 and requires every team to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching or general manager vacancy.[10]  Is it enough to have interviews on the books, if those interviews are a sham or if an organization has no intention of hiring diverse candidates?  Flores faces an uphill legal battle. To survive a motion to dismiss, Flores will have to provide a plausible claim that the NFL’s hiring practices discriminate against people of color, beyond mere speculation.[11]  Specifically, he will have to prove that race was a factor in the hiring decisions. Additionally, Flores may be subject to a mandatory arbitration clause within his NFL employment contract, an additional hurdle that could prevent him from having his day in court.[12]  If the suit moves past a motion to dismiss or compel arbitration, the discovery process will likely yield mountain of sensitive information.[13]

However, American University Washington College of Law’s own Professor Jeremi Duru stated that “this is a very strong complaint, and I think it is a watershed moment.”[14]  Plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases can build a claim around circumstantial evidence that shows a pattern of qualified minority candidates getting passed over for white candidates.[15]  Regardless of the results of the lawsuit, Flores’ claims bring employment discrimination in the sports context to the forefront and call into question anti-discrimination policies that allow for organizations to check a box through performative interviews of candidates with no intent of actually considering them for a position.


[1] Complaint at 2, Brian Flores v. National Football League, 2022 WL 295732 (S.D.N.Y 2022)(No. 1:22CV00871).

[2] Jane Coaston, ‘It Wasn’t an Easy Decision’: Brian Flores Talks About His Lawsuit Against the N.F.L., N. Y. Times (Feb. 2, 2022),

[3] Complaint at 2.

[4] Id.

[5] NFL Communications, NFL Statement on Brian Flores’ Suit, NFL (Feb. 1, 2022),

[6] Marcel Louis-Jacques, Brian Flores Sues NFL, Three Teams as Former Miami Dolphins Coach Alleges Racism in Hiring Practices, ESPN (Feb. 1, 2022),

[7] Jenna Lemoncelli, Bill Belichick’s Giants ‘Influence’ on Coaching Decision Goes Beyond Texts: Brian Flores, N. Y. Post (Feb. 4, 2022),

[8] Complaint at 8. See also Christian D’Andrea, Brian Flores’ NFL Lawsuit Alleges Broncos GM John Elway was ‘Drinking Heavily’ Night Before Coaching Interview, USA Today (Feb. 1, 2022),

[9] Daniel Oyefusi and David Wilson, Lawyer Says There’s ‘Corroborating Evidence’ Dolphins Owner Bribed Flores to Lose in 2019, Miami Herald (Feb. 2, 2022),

[10] Scott Neuman, Why a 20-Year Effort by the NFL Hasn’t Led to More Minorities in Top Coaching Jobs, NPR (Feb. 3, 2022),

[11] Jacob Gershman, Brian Flores Case Could Test NFL – If Lawsuit Survives Early Hurdles, Wall St. J. (Feb. 4, 2022),

[12] Mike Florio, Arbitration Clause Could Quickly Derail the Brian Flores Lawsuit, NBC Sports (Feb. 4, 2022),

[13] Andrew Brandt, Business of Football: How Likely is Brian Flores Lawsuit to Bring About Systemic Change?, Sports Illustrated (Feb. 2, 2022),

[14] Jason Reid, Brian Flores’ Lawsuit Shines a Brutal Light on the NFL’s Hiring Practices, The Undefeated (Feb. 1, 2022),

[15] Jacob Gershman, Brian Flores Case Could Test NFL – If Lawsuit Survives Early Hurdles, Wall St. J. (Feb. 4, 2022),


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