Programming note: Watch CNN’s interview with Brian Flores on “New Day” on Wednesday, February 2, at 8 a.m. ET.
Flores, who is Black, says in his lawsuit that the Giants interviewed him for their vacant head coaching job under disingenuous circumstances, as Flores had found out three days before his interview that the Giants had already decided to hire Brian Daboll.
Flores says he learned this after receiving a congratulatory text message from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick that was sent in error.
“Sounds like you have landed — congrats!!” Belichick texted to Flores, according to screen grabs of the conversation presented in Flores’ lawsuit.
“Did you hear something I didn’t hear?” Flores replied.
“Giants?!?!?!” Belichick texted.
“I interview on Thursday,” Flores wrote. “I think I have a shot at it.”
“Got it — I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy,” Belichick replied.
Later, Flores sought clarification.
“Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll,” Flores asked. “Just making sure.”
“Sorry — I f**ked this up,” Belichick answered. “I doubled checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB”
Flores alleges in his lawsuit that his interview with the Giants was a ruse so the team could “demonstrate falsely to League Commissioner Roger Goodell and the public at large that it was in compliance with the Rooney Rule.”
The NFL instituted the Rooney Rule in 2003 in an effort to increase diversity among the NFL’s head coaching, general manager and executive ranks. The rule requires every team to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions, according to the NFL’s Football Operations website.
Currently only one out of 27 head coaches employed in the NFL is Black, with five teams without a head coach in a league where roughly 70% of the players are Black. There are two other non-Black minority coaches — one of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent and one of Lebanese descent.
Flores’ lawsuit claims that in 2019, he was subjected to another “sham interview,” this one with the Denver Broncos. Flores says that “Broncos’ then-General Manager John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others showed up an hour late to the interview” and adds that the Broncos’ delegation “looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before.”
Flores also says Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross offered to pay Flores to purposely lose games in order to secure a higher pick in the NFL draft and encouraged Flores to purposely violate league tampering rules. Flores says when he refused, Ross then led a campaign to treat Flores with “disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
Flores: Lawsuit brings career risk
“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 wrote in a statement.
“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,” Flores continued. “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.”
NFL and teams defend their actions
The NFL responded to Flores’ lawsuit, calling Flores’ allegations meritless.
“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 league said in its statement. “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 Giants organization issued a statement standing by its process and decision to hire Daboll.
“We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll,” the team’s statement read. “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 Dolphins also responded, saying, “We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon. 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.”
The Denver Broncos strongly challenged Flores’ lawsuit, saying, “The allegations from Brian Flores directed toward the Denver Broncos in today’s court filing are blatantly false.”
“Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position,” the team’s statement continued. “The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization — and its employees — from such baseless and disparaging claims.”
Flores’ attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefteraki, said in a statement that the lawsuit seeks to “level the playing field.”
“On the first day of Black History Month, it is our great privilege to represent Brian Flores in his class action complaint against the NFL,” they said. “This case seeks to level the playing field in the hope that future owners and coaches will be representative of the athletes who are playing this great game. We fully expect coaches and players of all races to support Brian as he embarks on his journey to create positive change.”
Flores was a long-time Belichick assistant
Flores was 24-25 in three years with the Dolphins, including a 9-8 record this season when Miami missed qualifying for the playoffs.
Before he was head coach at Miami, he worked in scouting and was a coaching assistant for Belichick with the Patriots from 2004 to 2018.
He played football at Boston College but didn’t play in the NFL.
Lawsuit demands damages and change
The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York and asks for monetary damages and injunctive relief.
That relief would come in form of the NFL and its teams:
— Increasing the influence of Black people making hiring and firing decisions for top positions
— Creating a committee to increase ownership diversity
— Requiring teams to explain hiring and firing decisions in writing
— Creating a training program for Black assistant coaches who want to take a step up and become offensive or defensive coordinators.
— Making transparent the pay of general managers, head coaches and coordinators
— Creating monetary, draft or salary space incentives for hiring and retaining Black GMs and top coaches
— Involving more Black players and coaches in interviews for those positions
— Requiring teams to show side-by-side comparisons of criteria for employment decisions
CNN’s David Close and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.