Two more plaintiffs have joined former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit against the NFL some of its teams.
According to ESPN, Steve Wilks, who was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, an NFL assistant who interviewed for the Tennessee Titans’ head-coaching position in 2016, became part of the amended complaint Thursday (April 7).
Flores’ suit against the pro football league now includes his former team, the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Houston Texans, the Titans and Cardinals, as well as 26 other “John Doe” NFL Teams.
Attorneys for Flores allege in the amended complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, that the Texans “retaliated” against Flores by removing him from consideration for their head-coaching vacancy "due to his decision to file this action and speak publicly about systemic discrimination in the NFL."
The complaint asks for, among other things, increased transparency in NFL hiring, incentives for hiring Black coaches and increased visibility for Black assistant coaches, according to ESPN.
"When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself, and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him," Wilks, who is currently the pass game coordinator and secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers, said in a statement released by his lawyers. "This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality."
The Cardinals responded in a statement, claiming "the decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult ones. But as we said at the time, they were entirely driven by what was in the best interests of our organization and necessary for team improvement. We are confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue."
Horton was defensive coordinator for the Titans during the 2014-2015 season and interviewed for the team’s head-coaching job. Lawyers for him claim he was given a "completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position." The Titans ended up hiring Mike Mularkey, who is white, for the job, and Horton left to be the defensive coordinator in Cleveland. Mularkey was fired in 2018 by the team.
Additionally, Mularkey said in a 2020 podcast that the Titans’ owners told him he was going to get the job before they’d completed the interview process, which included interviewing two minority candidates.
Brian Flores is currently the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebackers coach and defensive assistant.
There are currently only six minority head coaches in the NFL. Two were fired and three were hired this offseason. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has since stated that every option is on the table in regards to combating the league’s fraught past in dealing with racism, including replacing the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview two minority coaches before making a final decision on a hire.
Flores filed the discrimination lawsuit in February, alleging he was discriminated against during his interview processes with the Broncos and Giants and firing from the Dolphins in January.
Flores says that as the team won games, Ross allegedly offered him $100,000 for every game he’d lose. Miami general manager Chris Grier told him that Ross was “mad” that Flores’ late-season winning was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”
The suit also includes text messages he alleges are from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick demonstrating that the Giants conducted an interview with Flores knowing they intended to hire someone else to be head coach and to comply with the Rooney Rule.