For the NFL, Sunday’s Super Bowl cannot come soon enough.

More than anything, the league wants our eyes on the field, where the magic of the game can make us forget how the worst side of the country’s most popular professional sport has been laid bare for all to see.

But even a great game Sunday shouldn’t distract from the allegations by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, whose lawsuit recently revealed the NFL’s sham diversity policies for what they are.

Flores filed his suit Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.

In doing so, he made history himself, becoming the first coach to officially challenge the NFL and its “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for top coaching and management openings.

The idea is to give minority candidates a chance to showcase their abilities as well as valuable experience in the hiring process.


Since the rule went into effect in 2003, however, it has been seen as a fig leaf giving cover to the league at the expense of Black candidates, who often felt they were brought in solely to fulfill the requirements of the rule.

Flores’ experience reveals just how much of a crock it can be: more of a “public relations ploy than a real commitment to change,” as the lawsuit states.

Flores, who was fired last month from the Dolphins after just three years and following his second straight winning season, thought he was in the running for the head coaching job at the New York Giants when a text from Patriots coach Bill Belichick revealed the truth: The Giants had already decided to hire another coach, Brian Daboll, who is white, three days before they were scheduled to interview Flores.

Flores, who also claims Dolphin ownership pressured him to break some of the NFL’s most serious rules then turned on him when he didn’t, has named in his suit the NFL, and the Dolphins, Giants and Denver Broncos, who Flores said also gave him a sham interview.

It looks like they’ve taken on the wrong person. Flores, the son of Honduran immigrants, pulled himself out of the housing projects of Brownsville, Brooklyn, to become a football star at Boston College. After graduation, he took a low-paying job with the Patriots, then worked his way up into one of the top coaching positions and helped win three Super Bowls.

Flores is not just a great football coach. He is a serious person who takes his integrity seriously. His words make it clear he will not back down, even if it means never coaching in the NFL again.


The NFL and the teams dispute the charges. But the numbers don’t lie. Seventy percent of the league’s players are Black, but at the time of the lawsuit, just one of 32 coaches was Black, along with just 15 of the top 64 coordinators.

Since the Rooney Rule was put in place, just 27 of the 127 head coaching openings have been given to minorities. It’s clear that good candidates are being ignored on account of their race.

Even when they are hired, Black coaches don’t get as much leeway as others. Flores was fired after three seasons in which he turned the franchise around and garnered great respect from his players. In Houston, David Culley, who is Black, was fired after just one season.

Decades of the Rooney Rule have changed nothing. Despite being one of the league’s best coordinators, Tony Dungy was turned down for job after job before becoming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach and building two Super Bowl winners. Marvin Lewis, too, was a perpetual “top candidate” for jobs before finally being hired in Cincinnati.

Both Dungy and Lewis came out in support of Flores this month; Lewis said he believes a 2002 interview of his was a sham solely meant to satisfy the Rooney Rule.

The failure of the Rooney Rule and the charade of interviews with Black candidates has been the open secret of the NFL. Now it is a secret no more.

The NFL hopes the game will make it go away. Fans, in good conscience, cannot oblige. They should stand with Flores as he takes on Goliath. They should be ready to force the league to fundamentally change how it operates.

To quote Flores, talking with Jane Coaston of The New York Times, “What matters is owners changing their hearts, changing their minds.

“And if they’re not willing to do that, then my opinion is that we should have new, different owners.”

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