Brian Flores on suing the NFL for discrimination : The Limits with Jay WilliamsBrian Flores is not messing around. The former Miami Dolphins head coach was fired last month, and had his eyes set on the top job with the New York Giants. But a misdirected text from New England Patriots general manager Bill Belichick convinced Flores, who is Black and Latino, that the hiring process was rigged against him, and that race was a major factor. He responded to the NFL by filing a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday. He was one of only three Black head coaches in the NFL at the time of his firing, in a league that has a majority of Black players. The lawsuit accuses the league of systemic racism and discriminatory hiring practices. It's made for a whirlwind 48 hours for Flores, who did not come to the decision to take legal action lightly. And it's arguably a louder stand than when Colin Kaepernick took his knee and paid the price. In this episode of The Limits, host Jay Williams sits down with Flores to talk about the change he hopes to inspire in the NFL, and the sacrifices he's willing to make to see that change take flight. For sponsor-free episodes, weekly bonus content, and more, subscribe to The Limits Plus at plus.npr.org/thelimits. Follow Jay on Instagram and Twitter. Email us at email@example.com.The Limits is produced by Karen Kinney, Mano Sundaresan, Leena Sanzgiri, Barton Girdwood, Brent Baughman, Rachel Neel and Yolanda Sangweni. Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Our executive producer is Anya Grundmann. Special thanks to Charla Riggi and Erin Register.
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It was an abrupt move that not many could have foreseen. Despite an impressive three-year showing with the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores was fired from his position as head coach last month in a surprising end to a contract that was supposed to last for two more years.
What's followed could be described as a "reckoning" for the NFL: Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the league and its 32 franchises citing racial discrimination, a move that's prompted a closer look at the NFL's hiring practices and the racial makeup of those in power.
As Flores explains in a new interview with NPR host Jay Williams for The Limits with Jay Williams, the ultimate goal is change – even if he gets blackballed in the process.
"If there's significant change," Flores says. "If I never coach again but there's a significant change, it'll be worth it."
Following Flores suit, which was filed on the first day of Black History Month, the NFL issued a statement denying the claims, describing them as "without merit."
In a revealing interview with Williams, Flores discusses the lawsuit, texts from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick that starkly underscore problems in the hiring process, the NFL's Rooney rule and discrimination that minority coaches face, as well as his hopes for the future.
On how he decided to file the lawsuit
I went back and forth on that. I did. I knew that it was a sacrifice that I was making, but I also felt like it was necessary. This isn't about me. This is about something that's much bigger than me, which is a system in the NFL that, in my opinion, is broken as far as hiring practices for Black and minority coaches and minorities in general. ...
The text messages from Bill Belichick confirmed a lot of things that I believed were going on for Blacks and minorities in the hiring process. Interviews that Blacks and minorities were going on, where we weren't getting a true opportunity in those interviews to showcase our abilities. ... To walk into an interview where a decision's already been made, that was the tipping point for me. That confirmation was something that I felt like I had to say something.
On why he was fired by the Dolphins
I wouldn't do the things that they wanted me to do. From a character and integrity standpoint, there was no way I was going to tank. Ultimately, I think that's why. Or, I know that's why.
On what he would to Dolphins fans who don't believe his story
Let's let it play out. In all things, I try to be honest and transparent. I think Dolphins fans felt that in my time there. That's who I am. That's part of my core belief and principles. I say, let's let it play out.
On problems in NFL hiring practices
I do think that there are back channel conversations and back channel meetings that are had that oftentimes influence decisions. I think [the Giants hiring process] is a clear example of that. Here's Bill Belichick, his resume speaks for itself. He has influence. It was clear that that decision was made with his influence. That's part of the problem. That needs to change. There needs to be a fair and equal opportunity to interview and showcase your abilities to lead and earn one of those positions.
The Limits is produced by Karen Kinney, Mano Sundaresan, Leena Sanzgiri, Barton Girdwood, Brent Baughman, Rachel Neel and Yolanda Sangweni. Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Our executive producer is Anya Grundmann. Special thanks to Charla Riggi and Erin Register.
Correction Feb. 4, 2022
A previous version of this digital story misspelled Bill Belichick's last name as Belichek.