Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores recently filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three teams alleging racist hiring practices. This didn’t surprise many of us. The longstanding elephant in the room has been there for all to see for years, especially with qualified Black coaches bypassed for head coaching jobs.
An excerpt from Flores’ lawsuit— “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.”
Flores further points out: one of 32 teams has a Black head coach, four employ a Black offensive coordinator, 11 employ a Black defensive coordinator, three have a Black quarterback coach and six, including the Minnesota Vikings, have a Black general manager.
The Rooney Rule, in place since 2003, was supposed to fix this—teams are required to interview at least one Black head coaching candidate but in actuality, these mainly are “sham interviews” conducted by teams, while their preferred White candidate is eventually hired.
Black candidates “in overwhelming numbers” don’t get NFL head coaching jobs, noted journalist Howard Bryant.
William C. Rhoden wrote last week in The Undefeated, “Flores’ unprecedented suit will likely be the impetus to overhaul the Rooney Rule. More than that, the lawsuit will be the next assault on the NFL’s granite wall of resistance to African American progress in the league.”
“It’s unacceptable,” WCCO-AM’s Henry Lake told us last week.
The Nation’s Dave Zirin pointed out, “There are some very real racists with very real power who sit in owners’ boxes and pull the levers of this league. We have a league that puts anti-racism slogan[s] in the end zone and on players’ helmets but won’t hire Black people. After a generation of having to forcibly compel the NFL ownership class to actually sit down and interview coaches of color, we are back to where we started.”
One might say that by filing his suit, Flores is committing career suicide, but if successful, it will finally expose the NFL for the racist organization that it is, something most of us Blacks, like Bryant, Rhoden, Lake and this columnist, and Whites such as Zirin, have written, spoke or stressed for oh so long—that the shield is unwilling to change its racist ways.
“The process for Black coaches revolves around two outcomes: one and done or never,” said Yussuf Khan in First and Pen. “But the one thing that they never are is first.”
“We know where the problem is,” continued Lake. “The problem is racism and the grand ole boy network in the National Football League. We’re at the point with the National Football League where another Black man is having to sacrifice … [his] career. It happened years ago with Colin Kaepernick.”
Kaepernick sued the NFL in 2017 alleging that the owners colluded to keep him and former teammate Eric Reid out of the league. The NFL settled out of court, but the Black QB just completed his fifth Whiteballed season of not playing football.
While I am hugely supportive of Flores’ suit and rooting for him, I am also afraid that the former NFL head coach will ultimately become the Kaepernick of Black coaches and also be Whiteballed out of the league.
“While Flores might never get a second chance as an NFL head coach,” concluded Khan, “his stand holds more significance outside of the game for he’s challenging a systemic issue plaguing so many off of the gridiron.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.