Brian Flores' Lawsuit Matters Even If It Fails
Anyone who keeps up with sports, and the NFL specifically, knows the story now. Brian Flores, the former coach of the Miami Dolphins, has been going on interviews to try and get another coaching job while the Miami organization leaks as much information to reporters to paint him as a controlling, obstinate black guy. Despite showing that he can win even with a bad organization like the Dolphins, the likelihood that he was gonna waltz into another job was slim based on the NFL’s history with black coaches in general. Eventually Flores felt the same way because he is now suing the NFL in a class action lawsuit over its discriminatory hiring practices—specifically singling out Miami and owner Stephen Ross who allegedly offered him 100K to lose games his first year and wanted him to tamper with another team’s QB. There’s also an accusation of the Broncos giving him a sham interview and text messages from Bill Bellichik indicating the same with the Giants.
It’s all a big mess, but what makes Flores’ suit truly notable is the audaciousness of it. Flores is one of the younger guys in the league and is pulling a move that could all but blackball him out of the NFL. Flores must clearly be angry, and driven enough in that anger to want to send a message. From a PR standpoint this is obviously a bad look for the league, especially in the run up to the super bowl, but is it anything more than that?
You’ll find very few serious people who don’t think Flores is being honest as far as what he feels he experienced. In the 20 years since the Rooney Rule was first implemented, the NFL doesn’t have much to show for it as far as racial progress goes. Anyone with eyes knows this is still an issue. The problem though comes in what to actually do about it. Even Brian Flores isn’t sure what he wants to happen. In an interview with ESPN, he claimed that he wanted to change the hearts and minds of the owners, which is some real “can’t we all just get along” eyeroll-inducing nonsense. Rich white billionaires are not changing their hearts or their minds, they don’t even like having to change their plans. The problem with the Rooney Rule and Roger Goodell’s attempt at diversification is that these owners run the league, they have all the fuck you money in the world and they aren’t gonna be told what to do. To them the Rooney Rule is just an obstacle to circumvent, and if the team is in real dire straits they might actually hire a black coach to come in and deal with the mess until they’re ready to be good again (aka “the David Culley special”). Anything you can do to try and encourage or coax these guys to hire black coaches ultimately will not work because these people fundamentally don’t trust us to lead or to be smart enough to design the offenses they now want. And if you think a black owner would be any better than you have a strong misunderstanding of the kind of person you have to be to be rich enough to own a team. How do you change their minds about that, especially when these guys think they don’t have to listen to anyone thanks to all the money they make?
The worst thing about some of the suggestions people have for how to fix the problem is how deferential it is to these owners and condescending it is to black people.. It’s always, force them to waste more black coaches time with sham interviews or creating a pipeline or feeder system of black coaches (as though that doesn’t exist). Worst of all is when owners say “well the just don’t interview well,” rather than question what that means people say “lets teach them how to interview” as though they’re being helpful. The onus is on the owners, and while Flores is not changing any hearts or minds, at best this lawsuit can be a pain in the ass for them if it picks up any steam. When the Rooney Rule was written it happened in part as a way to avoid litigation, and now that litigation is here. If nothing changes, it won’t be the last.