NFL coach Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit heads to court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL coach Brian Flores can press discrimination claims against the league and three teams after a federal judge on Wednesday rejected an arbitration option, presumably before Commissioner Roger Goodell, and offered some harsh observations about racial bias. game.

The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan cleared the way for Flores to bring her claims to trial, and the two other coaches involved in the case had to submit to a jury. The league sought to refer the Flores claims to arbitration, citing the contracts signed by the coaches.

Flores sued the league And three teams a year ago said the league was “rife with racism,” particularly in the hiring and promotion of black coaches.

“Coaches’ descriptions of their experiences of racial discrimination in a league with a long history of systematic discrimination against black players, coaches and managers are incredibly troubling,” Caproni wrote.

The judge said it was “difficult to understand” how Flores had only one black head coach in a 32-team league with 70% black players at the time he filed his lawsuit.

The judge said Flores could let a jury decide the merits of his discrimination claims against the league, the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants and the Houston Texans, but he would have to pursue his claims against the Miami Dolphins through a jury.

“Coach Flores’ class action claims of systemic discrimination against the NFL and multiple teams will continue in court and ultimately before a jury of his peers,” attorney Douglas Victor said in an email.

He added: “Mr. We are disappointed that the court forced any claims before Goodell, as he is clearly biased and unqualified to rule on these matters. We expect him to leave those matters to a truly neutral arbiter.

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NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league was pleased with Caproni’s ruling, saying “the majority of claims in this case are properly arbitrated by the commissioner under the binding agreements each plaintiff signed.”

He said the NFL plans to “immediately move forward with arbitration as directed by the court and dismiss the remaining claims.”

He added: “Diversity and inclusion across the NFL make us a great organization. We recognize that there is more work to be done, and we are deeply committed to doing it.

Flores filed suit after being fired by Miami, where he led the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years.

According to the lawsuit, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Rose told Flores he would pay Flores $100,000 for every loss in the coach’s first season because he wanted the club to “tank.”

The lawsuit alleges that Ross pressured Flores into recruiting a key quarterback in violation of the league’s tampering rules. When Flores refused, he was cast as an “angry black man” who was difficult to work with and mocked until he was fired.

When the lawsuit was filed, the Dolphins vehemently denied any allegations of racial discrimination, saying it was “proud of diversity and inclusion throughout our organization.”

Attorneys for the teams did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

When he brought the lawsuit, Flores said he knew he was risking the coaching career he loves, but he hoped to bring about positive change for generations to come by challenging systemic racism in the league.

Judge noted that Flores was announced as the Minnesota Vikings’ new defensive coordinator earlier this month.

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Caproni ruled that claims brought by two other coaches in the suit, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, should go through arbitration.

Wilkes was discriminated against in 2018 when he was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as a “bridge coach” but not given a meaningful opportunity to succeed, while Harden was discriminated against when he was given a mock interview with the Tennessee Titans. Head Coach post in January 2016.

In his opinion, Caproni said the case drew an ambiguous spotlight on “the National Football League’s employment practices” among teams.

“While the majority of professional football players are black, only a small percentage of coaches are black,” he wrote.

In deciding whether the claims in the case should go to arbitration rather than litigate in court, the judge cited specifics about individual contracts and whether they were properly signed.

He also ruled that Goodell’s potential role as an arbitrator did not invalidate arbitration agreements. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an argument by lawyers for quarterback Tom Brady — in a dispute over dropped footballs and a four-game suspension — that Goodell, as a matter of law, could not justify reasonable claims. League conduct.

However, Caproni added that allowing Goodell to arbitrate created a risk of bias and that the NFL’s statement on the day Flores filed the lawsuit was “concerning” that the lawsuit was without merit.

He also noted that if he was an arbitrator, he would retain the power to review the commissioner’s decision.

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