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Brian Flores’ suit against NFL alleges sham interviews, claims Dolphins’ Stephen Ross asked him to tank

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a bombshell lawsuit against the NFL on Tuesday that goes into detail about the league’s failures to promote, hire or even seriously consider Black coaching candidates.

It includes his recent experiences interviewing with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. It also states that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for each game lost in 2019 in order to “tank” the season and get the first pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Here are a few key anecdotes from the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status and accuses the league of discrimination. Out of 32 teams in a league with about 70% Black players, only one current head coach is Black – Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Giants interview

After being fired by the Dolphins, Flores had an interview lined up with the Giants last month. But then he says he learned from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick that they were hiring another “Brian” instead: Brian Daboll, the white offensive coordinator from the Buffalo Bills.

This was before Flores interviewed with the Giants. In an exchange of text messages, Belichick apparently had confused Brian Flores with Brian Daboll.

Brian Flores was fired after leading the Dolphins to two consecutive winning seasons.

“Sounds like you have landed – congrats!!” Belichick texted Flores on Jan. 24, apparently thinking he was texting Daboll.

“Did you hear something I didn’t hear?” Flores asked.

“Giants?!?!?!” Belichick replied, according to the lawsuit.

“I interview on Thursday,” Flores replied. “I think I have a shot at it.”

“Got it – I hear from Buffalo and NYG (Giants) that you are their guy,” Belichick texted, according to the lawsuit. “Hope it works out if you want it to!!”

Flores then felt the need to clarify something with Belichick.

“Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll,” he asked. “Just making sure.”

“Sorry – I (screwed) this up,” Belichick texted. “I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB.”

“Thanks Bill,” Flores replied.

OPINION: Brian Flores’ lawsuit put NFL’s systemic racism against coaches on full display

MORE: Ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores sues NFL, alleging racism in hiring practices

This was three days before Flores interviewed for a job that no longer appeared to be open to him. He described it as a sham designed to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching jobs.

“It is impossible to put into words the emotions Mr. Flores felt upon learning that not only would he not be getting the Giants Head Coach job — the job of his dreams — but, more importantly, that he was not even being given serious consideration for the position but being treated as a box to ‘check off’ due to his race,” Flores’ lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says he even went to dinner with Giants general manager Joe Schoen after knowing he was walking into his interview the next day with “no chance” to get the job.

In a statement Tuesday, the Giants 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 NFL released a statement on Tuesday as well, saying in part that the claims were “without merit” and that the league would defend itself.

The Broncos interview

Flores’ lawsuit also says this sort of sham interview has happened previously. In 2019, he interviewed with the Denver Broncos. He said then-Broncos general manager John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis were among those who “showed up an hour late to the interview.”

“They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before,” the lawsuit states. “It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos.”

Fangio recently was fired by the Broncos after three seasons and a 19-30 record.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Broncos called the allegations “blatantly false.”

The Dolphins situation

Flores was fired after three seasons in Miami, where he finished with a 24-25 record, including 10-6 last season and 9-8 this season. He cited other factors for losing lack of favor with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

The lawsuit states he was told that he was being terminated for “poor collaboration, which itself has discriminatory undertones.”

“Mr. Flores’ only failure to collaborate was his refusal to tank the 2019 season as had been requested by Mr. Ross,” the lawsuit states. “When he refused, and then over-performed and led the team to winning records in two consecutive seasons with a roster few experts predicted could do so — he was fired.”

The Dolphins finished 5-11 that season, including wins in their final two games.

“Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for each game lost that year,” the lawsuit states. “Then, when the Dolphins started winning games, due in no small part to Mr. Flores’ coaching, Mr. Flores was told by the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, that `Steve’ was `mad’ that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was `compromising [the team’s] draft position.'”

Ross wanted him to “tank” to secure the first pick in the draft, according to the lawsuit. The Dolphins ended up with the fifth overall pick in the next NFL draft and selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Cincinnati Bengals selected quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick and now are headed to the Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 13.

The Dolphins said in a statement on Tuesday:

“We are aware of the lawsuit through media reports that came out this afternoon. We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination 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.”

QB tampering?

Near the end of that same season, Flores’ lawsuit says Ross began to pressure him to recruit a prominent quarterback, in violation of NFL tampering rules. The suit does not name the quarterback. Tom Brady became a free agent in early 2020 before later signing with Tampa Bay.

“Mr. Flores repeatedly refused to comply with these improper directives,” the suit states. “Undeterred, in the winter of 2020, Mr. Ross invited Mr. Flores onto a yacht for lunch. Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that the prominent quarterback was ‘conveniently’ arriving at the marina.

“Obviously, Mr. Ross had attempted to ‘set up’ a purportedly impromptu meeting between Mr. Flores and the prominent quarterback. Mr. Flores refused the meeting and left the yacht immediately. After the incident, Mr. Flores was treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”

The lawsuit seeks an award of injunctive relief against the NFL and an award of damages to compensate them for the alleged conduct it describes.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brian Flores’ suit against NFL claims Stephen Ross asked him to tank

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