Serving California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois with COVID-19 precautions in place and convenient virtual meetings.

NFL Pushes to Move Racial Discrimination Suit Behind Closed Doors

Brian Flores, former head coach for the Miami Dolphins football team, has sued the NFL and three individual teams for alleged racial discrimination. Flores was hired by the Dolphins in 2019 after leading the New England Patriots to a third Super Bowl win as assistant coach. When he was fired in January 2022, he filed a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit almost immediately.

Flores’ lawsuit involves multiple allegations, including claims such as:

  • Dolphins team owner Stephen Ross attempted to bribe him $100,000 per game he lost in the 2019 season to “tank” the team’s ranking
  • Ross urged Flores to “tamper” with a prominent quarterback rumored to be Tom Brady
  • After Flores refused to participate in purposefully losing games or tampering with other players, Ross and other members of the teams and NFL proceeded to discriminate against Flores in retaliation, marking him as “noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
  • Flores’ firing as head coach was evidence of and caused by broader racial discrimination and retaliation by Ross, the NFL, and other teams.
  • Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, fellow members of the class action lawsuit, purported that they received similarly discriminatory treatment and were not granted the opportunity to succeed as coaches for the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Giants, respectively.

Flores’ allegations are a prime example of how race continues to affect people’s opportunities in the U.S. workforce. If the case is heard in court, it could potentially bring to light a variety of discriminatory behaviors within the NFL, where race remains a hot-button issue. However, the NFL is pushing to keep the case out of court entirely. Keep reading to learn why the NFL is trying to keep the matter behind closed doors and how racial discrimination laws continue to protect minorities in every industry.

Attempts to Force Flores Into Arbitration

In a move that may make it more difficult for Flores to receive a fair hearing, the NFL is pushing to have the case handled through arbitration instead of court. Flores’ contract includes a mandatory arbitration clause, which would typically bar the claim from being heard in court.

However, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, currently responsible for overseeing the case, has granted that Flores and other members of the class action lawsuit may be able to prove that the arbitrator proposed by the NFL may be biased against them. If so, the case would not move to arbitration and would instead be heard in court. Considering that the arbitrator would be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has already stated that he finds Flores’ claims “without merit,” Flores may have grounds to keep the case out of arbitration entirely.

If so, Flores would have an invaluable platform for highlighting racial bias in the NFL. It could put the spotlight on American racial anti-discrimination laws and act as a precedent for people facing similar workplace discrimination.

Racial Anti-Discrimination Laws in the US

Flores’ case is heavily based on federal workplace discrimination laws. These laws are the bare minimum for all states and require employers to treat people of all races equally. The two most critical anti-discrimination bills for the workplace are:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII

The Civil Rights Act is one of the foundational laws protecting minorities in the U.S. The Act includes multiple “titles” or sections, each covering a specific form of discrimination. Title VII covers equal employment opportunities.

It specifies that “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment … or to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” is an unlawful employment practice. In short, hiring, firing, or treating someone differently on the job due to their race is against the law.

U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21

The Civil Rights Act was incorporated into the U.S. Code under Title 42, Chapter 21. It also states that “different standards of compensation, or different terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” are only permissible if they are supported by a genuine merit system and not discriminatory.

In the case of Flores’ class-action lawsuit, he will heavily rely on these two laws. His case highlights the stark contrast in racial demographics among coaches and executives compared to players: in 2021, only five out of thirty-two head coaches were people of color, while 60% of players were. This suggests a tendency to “deprive” players of employment opportunities based on race, violating the Civil Rights Act.

Furthermore, Flores will likely argue that the NFL and teams named in the lawsuit are being racially discriminatory by providing coaches of color with fewer resources or opportunities to succeed compared to their white colleagues. This would violate Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code.

The NFL’s push to keep the case under arbitration may indicate that it doesn’t believe it would prevail in court. That’s why Flores continues to push to have his class-action lawsuit heard by a judge. Should he succeed, he may have a better opportunity to fight against discrimination without facing undue bias.

Taking a Stand Against Racial Discrimination

Flores is an excellent example of how people of color can take action against racial discrimination. He, Wicks, and Horton are taking a stand against racial prejudice and unfair hiring practices in one of the biggest organizations in the U.S.

You can follow their example if you’re struggling due to workplace biases. If a current or former employer has harmed your career with discriminatory decisions, you can take legal action. The first step is to reach out to expert workplace discrimination attorneys at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. Our qualified lawyers will help you stand up to racist employers and fight for your equal employment rights. Schedule your consultation today to learn more.

This is attorney advertising. These posts are written on behalf of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. and are intended solely as informational content. These blogs in no way provide specific or actionable legal advice, nor does your use of or engagement with this site establish any attorney-client relationship. Please read the disclaimer