Four Days After Saying Brian Flores’ Racism Claims Were “Without Merit,” NFL Decides He Has a Point

The lack of diversity among head coaches is “unacceptable,” says commissioner Roger Goodell.

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Earlier this week, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit accusing the league of “systemic racism” and identified examples of teams conducting “sham interviews” with Black coaching candidates without any intention of hiring them.

As evidence, he included text messages with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick that seem to show Belichick congratulating Flores for winning the New York Giants coaching job days before Flores had even interviewed. In fact, Belichick had meant to text Brian Daboll, who would eventually be named coach. Roughly 70 percent of NFL players are Black, but the only Black head coach out of 32 teams is Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. 

Within hours of filing his lawsuit, the NFL released a statement insisting diversity “is core to everything we do” and said Flores’ claims were “without merit.” The rapid response struck veteran NFL reporters as curious. “How, exactly, could the NFL know the claims by Flores are ‘without merit’ two hours after the suit emerged?” NBC’s Peter King asked on Twitter. 

Easy answer, Peter. They didn’t know! So four days after emphasizing its commitment to diversity, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to every team all but conceding several of Flores’ points.

“We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week,” Goodell said, adding that the lack of diversity among head coaches is “unacceptable.” He said the NFL would retain outside counsel to “reevaluate and examine” its diversity policies and ensure that “real and tangible” results are achieved.

It could start by investigating the specific claims Flores made—including that the Dolphins’ owner tried to bribe him to lose games and that the Giants and Denver Broncos conducted “sham” interviews with him after having already decided on other candidates—charges all three teams later denied. Maybe then Goodell can figure out why the league’s progress on diversity has gone backwards.

A decade ago, there were eight Black head coaches; now there is just one. Part of the problem may be the rampant nepotism throughout the coaching ranks. Nearly 15 percent of NFL coaches are related to a current or former coach, according to an analysis by the website Defector. The Defector report cited NFL data showing that more than 25 percent of head coaches are the “son or father of a current or former NFL coach (including coordinators and position coaches).” 

You should know you have a problem when there are more NFL head coaches named “Matt” (3) than there are Black head coaches.

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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