In an interview with CBS Mornings on Wednesday, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores spoke publicly for the first time since suing the NFL and three of its teams alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices by the league and other forms of racial discrimination.
Flores, along with his lawyers, reiterated and went into detail regarding multiple claims alleged in the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, and called for change in the NFL's hiring process.
"The Rooney Rule is intended to give minorities an opportunity to sit down in front of ownership, but I think what it's turned into is an instance where guys are just checking the box," Flores said. "That's been the case. I've been on some interviews in the past where I've had that feeling. There's always no way to know for sure but you know. I know I'm not alone in that."
Flores, who is Black, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three seasons. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
Flores alleges in the suit that while he was with the Dolphins, team owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach's first season because he wanted the club to "tank" so it could get the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which was eventually used by the Cincinnati Bengals to select quarterback Joe Burrow.
The NFL is expected to investigate the allegations made by Flores that Ross offered him money for each loss during the 2019 season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.
Flores said earlier Wednesday on CBS that his decision to not go along with Ross' plan hurt his standing within the organization and "ultimately was the reason why I was let go."
"This game changed my life," Flores explained. "To attack the integrity of the game, that's what I felt was happening in that instance, and I wouldn't stand for it."
The Dolphins said in a statement Tuesday that they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. The implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect."
Flores also alleges that the New York Giants engaged in a "sham interview" process with him in January for their head coach vacancy. The suit alleges that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick "mistakenly disclosed" to Flores in a text message exchange on Jan. 24 -- three days before Flores was set to interview with the Giants -- that the organization intended to hire Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is white. The Giants officially announced Daboll's hiring two days after interviewing Flores.
"It was a range of emotions. Humiliation, disbelief, anger," Flores said Wednesday of his reaction to Belichick's text messages indicating that the Giants were set to hire Daboll. "I've worked so hard to get to where I am in football, to become a head coach, for 18 years in the league. To go on what was gonna be or what felt like or what was a sham interview, I was hurt."
Flores added he still went along with the interview process even though he knew he wasn't going to get the Giants' head coaching job.
"I think there's still hope. Maybe call it the audacity of hope," Flores said. "I have a belief that there's good in people. I just do."
Flores' lawyer, Douglas H. Wigdor, said they decided to file a lawsuit prior to the Giants interview.
"We knew he wasn't getting that job," Wigdor said Wednesday. "On the day before that Giants interview, we reached out to you, to CBS, to start talking about doing this interview because we knew he wasn't getting the job, we knew it was a setup, we knew they were just trying to comply with the Rooney Rule. We started drafting the complaint, and here we are."
The Giants said in a statement Tuesday they are "pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll" and that Flores "was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour."
In addition to the Dolphins and Giants, Flores' suit alleges that he experienced another "sham interview" in 2019 with the Broncos. The lawsuit alleges that Denver interviewed Flores only to fulfill the Rooney Rule and that Broncos then-general manager John Elway, CEO Joe Ellis and others arrived an hour late to the interview and appeared "disheveled" and "it was obvious that they had [been] drinking heavily the night before."
"I've had nine interviews with NFL clubs. There's been one interview where anyone was late, and it wasn't me that was late, it was the interviewers who were late. That was with the Broncos," Flores said Wednesday on ESPN's Get Up. "I think there was a reason why they were late. I think they had been out the night before, I think that's the reason why."
Flores added: "When you sit at a table with five people who are interviewing you, you can tell who's asking questions, who's into the interview and who's not necessarily in the right state, I would say, in that moment. But even then, obviously, I put my best foot forward and showed why I was a good candidate for that job, I'm always going to do that. But I certainly did not feel like I was taken seriously and that I was just there as a Rooney Rule."
Denver said in a statement Tuesday that Flores' allegations are "blatantly false" and that its "process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position."
In response to the Broncos' statement, Flores said Wednesday, "I deal in truth, that's my reaction. I deal in truth. Honesty, integrity is important to me, and hopefully, there's a day we find out the truth on that one."
Flores filed the class-action lawsuit against the league and multiple teams while still under consideration for head coaching jobs in New Orleans and Houston. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported this week that Flores was slated to interview for the Saints vacancy on Tuesday. The Texans completed an in-person interview with Flores on Monday, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
Flores reiterated that, despite the suit, he still desires to coach in the NFL.
"I let both the teams know that we were gonna file," Flores said Wednesday. "Look, I love coaching. I'm gifted to coach. I know that. And the relationships I've built with players, coaches, support staff, I'm gifted to coach and I love coaching and I want to coach.
"But this is bigger than coaching. This is much bigger than coaching."
The NFL released a statement Tuesday, stating it will defend itself against the claims in Flores' suit.
"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations," the statement read. "Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
In 2020, the NFL amended the Rooney Rule to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a foundation that "exists to champion diversity in the NFL," said Wednesday in a statement, "Brian Flores' lawsuit is just the latest, dramatic call to action for the NFL and its team owners. Men and women of color in the NFL community have long known that the odds of advancing in the coaching ranks and in the front office are stacked against them. The Fritz Pollard Alliance supports Coach Flores and others in their effort to level the playing field for men and women of color."
There is currently one Black head coach (Mike Tomlin) and three minority head coaches (Tomlin, Ron Rivera, Robert Saleh) employed by the 32 NFL teams. Five teams are currently without a head coach. Of the four head coaches hired so far this cycle, all are white. Of the four general managers hired this cycle, two are Black and two are white.
"We didn't have to file a lawsuit for the world to know that there's a problem from a hiring standpoint in regards to minority coaches in the National Football League. The numbers speak for themselves," Flores said Wednesday. "We filed a lawsuit so that we could create some change, and that's important to me.
"I think we're at a fork in the road right now. We're either going to keep it the way it is or we're going to go in another direction and actually make some real change where we're actually changing the hearts and minds of those who make decisions to hire head coaches, executives, etc. That's where we've got to get to. We've got to change hearts and minds."