Ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he was 'humiliated' to go through with 'sham' Giants interview after texts from Bill Belichick showed team was never interested.
Fired coach hopes discrimination lawsuit changes NFL.
- Fired Miami Dolphins coach was on CBS Wednesday morning to discuss his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and the Giants, Broncos and Dolphins
- Flores alleged that the NFL discriminated against him and other black coaches
- After being fired in Miami, Flores had an interview scheduled with the Giants to be their head coach, but learned beforehand that he was never being considered
- Text messages from Bill Belichick, ostensibly intended for newly hired Giants coach Brian Daboll, revealed to Flores that he was never a candidate in New York
- He slammed the NFL's Rooney Rule, which is aimed to encourage minority hiring
- In its statement, the NFL claimed Flores's lawsuit was 'without merit'
- Nearly 60 percent of NFL players are African Americans, but despite that, the NFL has only one black head coach, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin
- Flores also said he may have damaged his career by filing the lawsuit, but hopes to still become an NFL head coach again. He has more interviews scheduled
- Flores is 24-25 as a head coach, but called plays for the Patriots defense when New England held the LA Rams to just three points in a Super Bowl LIII win
Fired Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores says he was humiliated by having to go through a 'sham' interview process for the New York Giants head coaching job after text messages from Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed he was never a real candidate for the position.
'It was a range of emotions,' Flores told CBS' Nate Burleson, a former NFL player, about his interview with the Giants. 'Humiliation, disbelief, anger.'
Flores filed a bombshell discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams on Tuesday over 'racist hiring practices' and accused the league of being run 'like a plantation.' Belichick's text messages were included in lawsuit, which was filed in Federal Court in Manhattan.
Belichick was apparently trying to message former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who had already interviewed for the Giants position and was ultimately given the job. Informed by Belichick's text messages, Flores now believes the Giants already knew they were hiring Daboll and were simply interviewing him to comply with the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to meet with at least one outside minority candidate for top coaching and executive positions.
The Brooklyn-born son of black Honduran immigrants, Flores said he was disappointed to be going into an interview for the Giants' job with the knowledge that he wasn't truly a candidate.
'I've worked so hard to get to where I am in football, to become a head coach,' he said. 'Put 18 years in this league, and to go [into] what felt like or what was a sham interview, I was hurt.'
The Patriots have not made Belichick available for comment since the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, nor have the Giants done so with Daboll.
Flores says his lawsuit against the NFL will continue even if he becomes a head coach again this offseason.
Flores has interviewed with the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints, who have yet to fill their coaching vacancies. If they call, Flores will listen, but he said the suit will go on because the league needs change.
'This is about changing the hiring practices in the National Football League, and that's what this lawsuit is about,' Flores said Wednesday on CNN. 'I want to coach football that's what I'm called to do.'
Flores said he knows others have similar stories and that it is hard to speak out. He called his potential sacrifice bigger than football or coaching. The NFL is at a fork in the road, he said.
'We're going keep it the way it is or go in another direction and make some change where we're actually changing the hearts and minds of those who make decisions to hire head coaches, executives, et cetera,' Flores said on CBS. 'That's what we've got to get to. We've got to change hearts and minds.'
Nearly 60 percent of NFL players are African Americans, but despite that, the NFL has only one black head coach, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin.
To Flores, this is a sign that the NFL's Rooney Rule is ineffective.
'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,' he said. 'The numbers speak for themselves.
'The Rooney rule's intended to give minorities an opportunity to sit down in front of ownership, but I think what it's turned into is - an instance where guys are checking the box. That's been the case. I've been on some interviews in the past that were I've had that feeling. There's always no way to know for sure, but... I know I'm not alone.'
Flores also said he knows he may have damaged his career by filing the lawsuit.
'I understand the risks, and yes, it was a difficult decision,' he said, adding that he hopes to continue as an NFL head coach.
'I love coaching, I'm gifted to coach, I know that,' Flores continued. 'The relationships I built with players, coaches, support staff, I'm gifted to coach, I love coaching and I want to coach ... This is bigger than coaching. This is much bigger than coaching.'
Flores is 24-25 as a head coach, but called plays for the Patriots defense when New England held the LA Rams to just three points in a Super Bowl LIII win.
Flores's lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, included text messages in which Belichick, his former boss, mistakenly congratulated him for getting hired by the Giants before he even interviewed with the team.
Apparently Belichick intended to text another Brian, former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who had already interviewed twice and was ultimately hired for the position.
'There was back and forth,' Flores said about his text exchange with Belichick. 'I asked, ''are you talking to the right Brian?'' And as you have seen through the text messages, he was actually -- thought he was texting Brian Daboll.'
The text message from Belichick to his former assistant began with the Patriots coach saying, 'Sounds like you have landed - congrats!!'
A confused Flores responded: 'Did you hear something I didn't here?'
'I interview on Thursday. I think I have a shot.'
Belichick assured him that he does.
'Got it. I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!!'
Flores then told his mentor that he hopes he's right before questioning whether Belichick has reached out to the right person.
'Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure.'
Belichick quickly realized his shocking fumble.
'Sorry. I f***ed this up. I double checked and misread my text. I think they are naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that. BB'
The now-shattered Flores signed off: 'Thanks Bill.'
The Giants announced that they hired Daboll on January 28.
In a statement, the team denied Flores's accusations of racism.
'We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll,' the statement said. '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.'
The team declined to make Daboll available for comment when contacted by DailyMail.com.
Speaking to the CBS roundtable on Wednesday, Flores stressed that he has no problem with NFL teams hiring the most qualified candidate, but expressed skepticism over whether or not that's the case.
'That's very reasonable to me,' Flores said when asked if team should be able to hire the best candidates. 'But at the same time, I know of a lot of very capable coaches, executives, minorities, coaches, executives who are minorities, and in a lot of cases are as qualified, more qualified, and frankly better than their white counterparts.'
Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning defended the team to the New York Post.
'I was not involved in any of that process in any way, so I don't know the details,' Manning told The Post. 'I know the Giants organization. I know they do everything possible to give everybody a fair chance. They don't care minority or not, they are looking for the best possible candidate. They are going to do everything properly to look for that perfect candidate.
'So, I don't think there was any wrongdoing there.'
Marvin Lewis, the African-American former head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, suggested on Wednesday that he was given a similar sham interview with the Carolina Panthers in 2002, when they ultimately hired John Fox.
'I did interview with the Carolina Panthers before John Fox got the job,' Lewis told ESPN on Wednesday. 'And I can recall that we had lost to the Steelers in the second round of the playoffs and I remember sitting at home on Monday and, I think it was [ESPN reporter] Chris Mortenson or someone else, they reported that Foxy would be named the head coach of the Panthers on Friday.
'And when I went to work Tuesday, [Ravens head coach Brian Billick] came in, said I just got off the phone with [Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome] and the Panthers want you to come down and interview for the job.
'I said, coach, I just heard last night on TV that they're gonna name Foxy the coach on Friday,' continued Lewis, who was working as a Ravens assistant in 2002. 'So he goes back, he talks to Ozzie, he talks to their people, and I end up going down to Charlotte and meeting with the Richardson family and they said that wasn't true and so forth. And they named John the head coach on Friday.
'So, you know, I don't know, again, that's the situation I was in. But you have to go. You have to go and prove that you're worthy to become the head coach. You're appreciative of the opportunity but what was supposedly gonna happen ended up happening in that case for sure.'
Richardson, the founding owner of the Carolina Panthers, was forced to sell the team in 2017 amid allegations of racism and sexist behavior.
The filing also accused Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, of trying to bribe Flores $100,000 for every game he lost during the 2019 season so the team could get the first pick in that year's NFL Draft.
In addition to hurting his personal lifetime record, which could hinder his hopes of obtaining future NFL positions, Flores was upset because he though Ross was disrespecting the game by intentionally trying to lose.
'Look, this game's done a lot for me. I grew up not far from here in the projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn,' Flores said. 'I didn't grow up with a lot. This game, you know, 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.'
Flores did not comply with the directive, although the team struggled, finishing just 5-11.
Ross also allegedly pressured Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of the league's tampering rules. When Flores refused, he was cast as the 'angry black man' who is difficult to work with and was derided until he was fired, the suit said.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and the Giants, along with unidentified individuals.
It alleged 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.
The NFL currently has just one black head coach, the Steelers' Tomlin, and only six of the 32 teams have a black general manager. There is one African-American team president: Washington Commanders boss Jason Wright.
In its statement, the NFL claimed Flores's lawsuit was 'without merit.'
'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. 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.'
Flores 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, who was the Patriots linebackers coach and called plays for the defense the last time they won the Super Bowl, filed the lawsuit despite the prospect of him never getting another job in the league.
'We filed the lawsuit so that we could create some change,' Flores said. 'And that's important to me. I think we're at a fork in the road. We're going keep it the way it is or go in another direction and make some change where we're changing the hearts and minds of those who make decisions to hire head coaches, executives, et cetera. That's what we've got to get to. We've got to change hearts and minds.'
'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,' Flores said in a release put out by the law firm representing him in the case.
'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.'
In the lawsuit, Flores alleged: 'In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation.
'Its 32 owners - none of whom are black - profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70 percent of whom are black. The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-black workforce put their bodies on the line every Sunday, taking vicious hits and suffering debilitating injuries to their bodies and their brains while the NFL and its owners reap billions of dollars,' it added.
He included the Broncos in the lawsuit after a failed bid to land the top job in Denver following a 2019 interview in which he claimed President of Football Operations/GM John Elway and former Broncos executive Joe Ellis were late and 'completely disheveled' from an evening of heavy drinking.
African Americans accounted for 57.5 percent of league players in 2020, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Meanwhile white players comprised 24.9 percent of NFL rosters in 2020, when the league still had four black head coaches.
The NFL tied a record in 2018 with eight African-American head coaches, all but seven of whom have been dismissed.
Flores' lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor of Wigdor LLP and John Elefterakis of Elefterakis, Elefterakis & Panek, said the case 'seeks to level the playing field in the hope that future owners and coaches will be representative of the athletes' playing in the league.
'We fully expect coaches and players of all races to support Brian as he embarks on his journey to create positive change,' they said in a statement to DailyMail.com