The National Football League is at it again.
The most popular sports institution in America, whose franchises are nearly exclusively owned by some of the wealthiest white men in this country with the exception of Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is attempting to move former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ federal racial disrimination lawsuit into the shadows, deep out of the public’s consciousness.
On Feb. 1, Flores filed the lawsuit against the NFL, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants organizations, alleging racial discrimination in their hiring and firing practices. The 41-year-old born and raised Brooklyn native who is of Honduran descent, was terminated by the Dolphins on Jan. 10 after three seasons leading the team to a combined 24-25 record, including 10-6 in 2020 and winning eight of the final nine games last season to go 9-8.
Flores subsequently was not hired to fill any of the league’s eight head coaching openings—excluding the Dolphins vacancy—but on Feb. 19 was named senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of those eight, Lovie Smith (Houston Texans) and Mike McDaniel (San Francisco 49ers), who has a Black father and white mother, were the only Black candidates to make the cut.
On Monday in New York, in the first hearing for Flores’ suit, the NFL informed Judge Valerie E. Caproni they would seek to either dismiss the case or move it to arbitration. The league’s legal representative in the Flores suit, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, put forth to federal Judge Caproni that the NFL believes all claims in the lawsuit must be moved to arbitration according to the terms of employment agreements.
Flores’ attorney, Douglas Wigdor, countered by asserting the league was endeavoring to compel the allegations made Flores to be heard “behind closed doors.” The league’s strategy is an evident action to suppress transparency and avert having their piles of dirty laundry strewn across the NFL’s inequitable landscape for the masses to view.
But bringing the darkness to light is exactly what needs to transpire. The decades of denied opportunities for Black coaches and the rewarding of mediocrity for less qualified white coaches if for no other reason than the racial and cultural comfortability white owners harbor with the latter, should be categorically examined and exposed.
There has been a litany of lawsuits, investigations and appearances before Congress to which NFL executives, headed by Commissioner Roger Goodell, and its member teams have been subjected. Yet for the most part, they walk away unscathed. Revenue and ratings continue to abundantly flow and with the bottom line unaffected, business as usual remains the order of the day for the unapologetic and girded NFL shot callers.