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Brian Flores, the Football Coach Suing the NFL for Discriminatory Actions, Had a Powerful Upbringing With Honduran Roots

On Sunday, the NFL season reached its yearly climax with the Super Bowl. But now, a battle has just begun on another front. On February 1, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced he is suing the NFL and a handful of teams for what he alleges is “unlawful discriminatory actions.”

Now, some people are calling Brian Flores the “Rosa Parks of the NFL” for taking a public — and possibly career-ending — stand against an organization who has had a long and problematic relationship with minorities.

Who is Brian Flores?

Brian Flores is what many people imagine when they think of the American Dream. Flores’s parents, Raul and Marie Flores, immigrated from Honduras to the United States in the ’70s, settling in Brownsville, Brooklyn — one of the roughest neighborhoods in New York City.

By Flores’s account, his parents hardly spoke a lick of English when they arrived in the U.S. Flores’s father was a merchant marine, absent sometimes 10 out of 12 months of the year. His mother was a stay-at-home mom and, by his account, a drill sergeant.

“[My mother is] as tough as they come,” Flores told Patriots news site in 2018. “That’s one thing I feel I’ve taken from her that’s helped me in all walks of life: personally, professionally. I’m soft on my kids, [but] she wasn’t soft on me.”

Maria Flores strongly believed in the value of a good education — values that kept her five sons off the streets of the crime-ridden neighborhood of Brownsville.

How did Flores’s football career start?

It was through sheer chance, luck and raw talent that Flores could rise from his humble beginnings to an NFL coach. When he was twelve, Flores was spotted while playing football in a park in Queens and recruited by a youth league coach into playing on his team.

It was in the Queens youth league that a former NFL-player turned private-school coach saw his raw talent and convinced the prep school he coached at to admit Flores on a football scholarship. Flores went on to play football at Boston College as a defensive back and then a linebacker. However, an injury prevented him from transitioning to college football to playing in the NFL.

How did Brian Flores become one of the rare Black NFL head coaches?

Despite not being able to play in the NFL, Flores’s NFL dreams weren’t completely dashed. Soon, Flores was recruited by the Patriots to become a gofer, then a scout, and finally an assistant coach to Bill Belichick in 2008.

In 2019, the Miami Dolphins hired him as their head coach, making Flores the first Latino coach and the second Black coach in Miami Dolphins history, after interim coach Todd Bowles. Under Flores’s leadership, the Dolphins had back-to-back winning seasons — a franchise first in nearly 20 years.

But despite his accomplishments, Flores was fired after three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

What are the details of his lawsuit against the NFL?

On February 1, 2022, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and the Miami Dolphins alleging “unlawful discriminatory actions.”

Flores alleges that he sat through “sham interviews” with various NFL teams, including the New York Giants and Broncos, because an affirmative-action rule forces teams to interview minority candidates before hiring head coaches. But according to Flores, the decision to hire a white coach had already happened in “back-channel meetings.”

Black players make up 57.5% NFL players. But as of time of publication, only one of the league’s 32 head coaches are Black. They also have one Latino coach, Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team.

According to inside sources, Flores was fired because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross described him as “difficult to work with.” Flores says that he was labeled as “difficult” to work with when he refused Ross’ request for him to throw games.

According to Flores, Ross offered him $100,000 per loss to purposefully tank games so that the Dolphins would be at the bottom of the league and therefore get the first pick in the NFL draft.

“To disrespect the game that’s done so much for me was a tough conversation,” Flores told NPR about the discussion. “And I voiced my opinion on why that would never happen, why I would never take part in anything like that. And I think if you heard my story, if you understood where I came from…you would understand why I would react the way I did.”

How is the NFL responding?

The NFL responded to the allegations, saying: “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.” They added that they “defend against these claims, which are without merit.”

As of now, the general consensus is that Stephen Ross did likely ask Flores to throw games. The NFL has already publicly released a statement saying that Ross might be forced to sell the Miami Dolphins if the allegations are proven true.

For his part, Flores seems to know that he has a tough road ahead of him — one that may not have a happy ending.

“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,” he said in a statement that accompanied the lawsuit. “…I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. 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.”

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