Former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores Sues NFL and 3 Teams, Alleges Discrimination and Racial Injustice

The teams named in the lawsuit filed by Brian Flores on Tuesday include the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants

Brian Flores
Photo: Mark Brown/Getty

Brian Flores, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a class action lawsuit against the organization on Tuesday, alleging discrimination in his firing last month.

Flores, who turns 41 on Feb. 24, also alleges that the New York Giants and Denver Broncos — the teams for which he said he sat through "sham" interviews for a head coaching position — discriminated against him in their hiring process. He is also suing the NFL.

"God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals," Flores said in a statement sent to PEOPLE. "In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me."

Added Flores: "My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come."

Flores says in the complaint that he aims to "shine a light on the racial injustices that take place inside the NFL and to effectuate real change for the future" and seeks to "increase the influence" of Black individuals in hiring and termination decisions for top positions within the league.

In the 58-page complaint, which was filed in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, multiple alleged incidents in which Flores cites he was discriminated against include one stemming from 2019, in which he says Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered Flores a monetary bonus of $100,000 for each game he lost.

As Flores and the Dolphins won games later in the season, the former Miami head coach alleges that General Manager Chris Grier told him that Ross was "mad" because the late-season wins were "compromising [the team's] draft position."

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Additionally, Flores alleges that Ross pressured him to recruit a "prominent quarterback" at the end of 2019, which he refused to do as to not violate NFL rules on tampering. Ross allegedly invited Flores on a yacht in the winter of 2020 for lunch, during which he informed him the aforementioned quarterback would be stopping by.

Flores says that he left the yacht after refusing the meeting and, by doing so, was allegedly "treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with." After two winning seasons with the Dolphins, he was fired in January 2022.

"With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding. I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory," Ross said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Added Ross: "We understand there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization, from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims."

"We are aware of the lawsuit through the media reports that came out this afternoon. We vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," a spokesperson for the Miami Dolphins said in a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday.

"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," the statement concluded.

Additionally, Flores alleges that he was discriminated against during the hiring process with the New York Giants last month, claiming the organization only went through the motions of interviewing him to comply with the NFL's Rooney Rule, which "requires NFL teams to interview diverse candidates for vacant Head Coach, General Manager, Coordinator and other senior positions," Flores' lawyers said in a statement sent to PEOPLE.

Flores alleges that he interviewed via Zoom with the Giants on Jan. 18, just before the organization hired former Buffalo Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen as their new general manager, who finalized Flores' interview date for Jan. 27. Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was also in the running for the position.

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The lawsuit alleges that hours later, Patriots coach Bill Belichick — whom Flores worked under for nearly a decade — sent a series of texts to Flores, telling him that he had heard from "Buffalo and NYG [New York Giants] that you are their guy."

When Flores asked Belichick to clarify who he meant to send the text to, Belichick replied, "Sorry – I f---ed this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I'm sorry about that" — implying that the Giants had already selected Daboll for the position before Flores' scheduled interview. Daboll was officially hired the day after Flores' Jan. 27 interview.

Though PEOPLE's request for comment from the New York Giants was not immediately returned, the team said in a statement to ESPN that they are "pleased and confident" with the hiring process.

"We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates," the team said, per the outlet. "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."

A representative for Belichick did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Flores also alleges that he went through a similar experience during the interview process with the Denver Broncos in 2019.

PEOPLE's request for comment from the Denver Broncos was not immediately returned. In a statement to ESPN, the team said they will "vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization — and its employees — from such baseless and disparaging claims."

They added, "Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate. Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position."

The NFL, which is also being sued by Flores, responded to the lawsuit in a statement on their website.

​"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," it 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."

Flores' legal team, Douglas H. Wigdor of Wigdor LLP and John Elefterakis of Elefterakis, Elefterakis & Panek, said in a joint statement that this case "seeks to level the playing field in the hope that future owners and coaches will be representative of the athletes who are playing this great game."

They added, "We fully expect coaches and players of all races to support Brian as he embarks on his journey to create positive change."

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