Former Miami head coach Brian Flores is suing the NFL and three of its teams -- the Broncos, Dolphins and Giants -- alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices by the league and racial discrimination during the interview process with Denver and New York, as well as during his tenure with Miami.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court sought class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the three teams and unidentified individuals.
Flores, who is Black, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
Flores' lawsuit alleges that the league has discriminated against Flores and other Black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.
"It was time to stop being quiet about the injustices that are happening," Flores' team said over the phone to NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe. "This was long overdue. There's plenty of racism that need to be exposed."
Flores added in a release put out by the law firm representing him: "God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals. In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come."
The NFL released a statement Tuesday, stating it will defend itself against the claims in Flores' suit.
"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations," the statement read. "Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
The lawsuit said the Dolphins' firing of Flores was typical for Black coaches who are not given the latitude other coaches receive to succeed. It noted that Flores led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.
The improvement came even though, the lawsuit contends, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach's first season because he wanted the club to "tank" so it could get the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which was eventually used by the Cincinnati Bengals to select quarterback Joe Burrow.
The lawsuit alleged that Ross then pressured Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback -- whom NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport identified as Tom Brady -- in violation of the league's tampering rules. When Flores refused, the suit alleges that "Flores was ostracized and ultimately he was fired."
"We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon," the Dolphins said in a statement. "We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect. We will be withholding further comment on the lawsuit at this time."
After he was fired by Miami, several teams requested to interview Flores for their head-coach openings. The lawsuit alleges that one team, the New York Giants, engaged in a "sham interview" process with Flores for their vacancy. The suit alleges that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick "mistakenly disclosed" to Flores in a text message exchange on Jan. 24 -- three days before Flores was set to interview with the Giants -- that the organization intended to hire Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is white. The Giants officially announced Daboll's hiring two days after interviewing Flores.
"Flores had to give an extensive interview for a job that he already knew he would not get -- an interview that was held for no reason other than for the Giants to demonstrate falsely to the league commissioner Roger Goodell and the public at large that it was in compliance with the Rooney Rule," the suit alleges.
"We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll," the Giants said in a statement. "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' suit alleges that he experienced another "sham interview" in 2019 with the Broncos. The lawsuit alleges that Broncos then-general manager John Elway, CEO Joe Ellis and others arrived an hour late to the interview and appeared "disheveled" and "it was obvious that they had [been] drinking heavily the night before."
The suit alleges that it was clear the Broncos interviewed Flores to fulfill the Rooney Rule, "and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job."
The Broncos hired Vic Fangio, who is white, for the position. Fangio was fired in January 2022.
"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 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2019, in a Providence, R.I., hotel. There were five Broncos executives present for the interview, which lasted approximately three-and-a-half hours -- the fully allotted time -- and concluded shortly before 11 a.m.
"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."
In 2020, the NFL amended the Rooney Rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.