Bias Suit Against NFL Adds 2 Coaches

Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have held the head job for one season between them
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2022 1:04 PM CST
Updated Apr 7, 2022 4:11 PM CDT
Dolphins Owner Denies Big Allegation in Lawsuit
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores talks to Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross in this 2019 photo.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Update: Two former NFL coaches have signed on to a pending lawsuit accusing the NFL of racial discrimination in its hiring practices: Steve Wilks and Ray Horton. Wilks served as a head coach for one season for the Arizona Cardinals, ESPN reports. Lawyers said he was installed as a "bridge coach" and "not given any meaningful chance to succeed." Horton, an assistant coach in the league since 1994, interviewed for the head coach job with the Tennessee Titans in 2016. Lawyers said he was invited to a "completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity." In both cases, the job next went to a white coach. Our story from Feb. 3 about the lawsuit follows:

When he sued the NFL and accused it of racial discrimination, fired Black coach Brian Flores also lobbed another volatile accusation—that the Miami Dolphins offered to pay him an extra $100,000 for each game he lost in 2019 to improve the team's draft. Team owner Stephen Ross is now angrily denying it, reports NBC Sports. "His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory," Ross says in a statement, adding that he is "eager to defend my personal integrity" and that of the team's.

  • Corroboration? The NFL Network reports that an unnamed witness heard Ross make the offer to Flores. And Flores reportedly has messages from GM Chris Grier backing up his allegations against Ross.

  • Big reason: Flores told CBS Mornings that he rejected the offer because he viewed it as an attack on the "integrity of the game." He added that his refusal to go along with the plan "hurt his standing" with the team and "ultimately was the reason why I was let go."
  • Race allegations: Flores sued not only the Dolphins but the Broncos and Giants, with whom he interviewed, and the league as a whole, alleging that Black coaching candidates face discrimination. "Finding ironclad proof of racial discrimination is rarely easy, especially in an individual case," writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. "But the evidence that the NFL has engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Black coaches is strong," he adds. For one thing, most of the players are Black and only one head coach is. Leonhardt cites various analyses into the issue.
  • Not just football: The Wall Street Journal reports that Flores' "bombshell lawsuit" calls attention to similar issues elsewhere, including Major League Baseball, college athletics, and soccer's English Premier League. But in the NFL in particular, the story cites an analysis by the Institute For Diversity and Ethics in Sport that while 41% of assistant coaches in the league last year were people of color, the figure fell to 15.6% for head coaches.
  • A prediction: In Sports Illustrated, Conor Orr notes that under the NFL's "Rooney Rule," teams looking for a head coach must interview two candidates of color. Flores and others say it's a meaningless exercise. This could well come to a head during the next big purge of coaches next season. "For the league and its teams, the consequences will be when minority coaches refuse to be the candidate who interviews with a club simply to check off a box," writes Orr.
(More NFL stories.)

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