The allegations of racial discrimination made by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores in his lawsuit against the NFL and teams are drawing scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., called Wednesday for the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce “to swiftly hold a hearing on the issue of systemic racism in the NFL.”
Rush made the request in a letter written to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the subcommittee’s chair, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
“I know you share my commitment to increasing diversity, both on and off the football field,” Rush wrote. “I am also confident that you share my belief that it is the responsibility of this Subcommittee—given our jurisdiction over professional sports—to shine a bright light on these allegations and to thoroughly investigate these concerns.”
Rush noted that the firings this offseason of Flores by the Dolphins and David Culley by the Houston Texans have left the NFL with only one Black head coach in a league in which approximately 70% of players are Black.
“I am afraid that this lack of diversity is not a coincidence or a mere accident, but more systemic in nature,” Rush wrote. “Simply put, this is bold-faced racism.”
Flores said in a televised interview earlier Wednesday that he is trying to “create some change” to the league’s minority hiring practices. He said he understands the risks to his own career that could result from making the accusations in his lawsuit about the treatment of Black coaches.
“We didn’t have to file a lawsuit for the world to know that there’s a problem from a hiring standpoint in regards to minority coaches in the National Football League,” Flores said on the “CBS Mornings” show. “The numbers speak for themselves. We filed a lawsuit so that we can create some change.”
Flores filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It cites the league and three teams in particular—the Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos—but includes the 29 other teams as potential defendants.
“I understand the risks and yes, it was a difficult decision,” Flores said Wednesday. “And I went back and forth. And like I said, I love coaching. I do. It’s something that I’m passionate about. It brings me joy. And I love helping young people reach their potential and become the best versions of themselves. I’m gifted to do that. But this is bigger than that.”
Flores was fired last month by the Dolphins after a second straight winning season. The Texans have confirmed interviewing Flores for their still vacant head coaching job. Flores reportedly also has interviewed with the New Orleans Saints, whose head coaching position remains open.
“I let both the teams know that we were going to file” the lawsuit, he said on CBS.
The NFL and the three teams named in the lawsuit denied the allegations. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is the league’s only active Black head coach. Of the nine head coaching vacancies in the league this offseason, four have been filled, all of them by White coaches.
Ron Rivera, the coach of the newly renamed Washington Commanders, said later on the CBS show that Flores is doing “a brave thing” by filing the lawsuit.
“I think there is something to be looked at there,” said Rivera, the NFL’s only Latino head coach. “I really do. I think what Brian is doing is really a brave thing because in this world, in what we do, we’ve got to be willing to open up our eyes and really decide on merit. When you look at a guy like Brian and what he’s accomplished and what he’s done, there is a lot of merit there. And those are the types of things that people should be judged on and things should be based on.”
Flores reiterated some of the most significant allegations made in his lawsuit. In the suit, Flores accuses Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering him $100,000 per loss to aid an alleged 2019 tanking attempt to secure the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft.
“Look, this game’s done a lot for me,” Flores said. “I grew up not far from here in the projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I didn’t grow up with a lot, and this game changed my life. So to attack the integrity of the game, that’s what I felt was happening in that instance, and I wouldn’t stand for it.”
Of that refusal to comply, Flores said, “I think it hurt my standing within the organization and ultimately was the reason why I was let go.”
The Dolphins said Tuesday it was “incorrect” to imply they “acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game.”
Flores repeated that he received a text message from New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, three days before Flores interviewed late last month for the Giants’ head coaching job, saying that the Giants were hiring Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Both Daboll, who is White, and Flores are former Patriots assistant coaches.
Flores said that Belichick initially believed he was sending a congratulatory text to Daboll.
“He thought he was texting Brian Daboll,” Flores said.
The Giants said Tuesday that they are “pleased and confident” with their hiring process and that Flores remained under consideration “until the eleventh hour.” They hired Daboll late last week.
Flores said Wednesday he felt “humiliation, disbelief, anger” after receiving Belichick’s text but proceeded with his interview with the Giants out of “the audacity of hope.”