It’s an open secret among Black men that people are usually afraid of them. Of us.
We operate in this world with that awareness, knowing that everyone else’s comfort level is more important than our own because what’s scarier than a presumably angry, aggressive black man?
Tones must be kept in check, animated responses must be muted and slights should be overlooked. Being labeled “an angry, black man” was the one stereotype Brian Flores feared most, and labored to distance himself from.
Who remembers Flores’ on-field dust up with Cincinnati, when he charged the field to confront a Bengals player who has just blasted return Miami Dolphins specialist Jakeem Grant with an illegal hit while he was fielding a punt in a dramatic 19-4 win. After the game, despite his emotional moment being celebrated by the fan base and media, Flores couldn’t have been more remorseful and apologetic.
At the root of his issue was the fact he knew he couldn’t act that way as one of the select few black coaches allowed to lead an NFL team.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly the label Flores’ groundbreaking class action lawsuit against the NFL will create.
Flores can now take a seat next to Colin Kaepernick as a social justice crusader who likely jeopardized his career by using his platform, and the sport he loved to create change.
The class action complaint by Flores, who was fired by the Dolphins last month, filed against the NFL while in the midst of interviewing for head coaching positions could lead to him being blackballed, and never coaching in the league again.
By filing the lawsuit on the same day he was meeting with the New Orleans Saints about their head coaching vacancy, Flores must have concluded that pulling back the curtain on the NFL’s racially biased undertones, could deliver the change needed to create a better league.
If the courts don’t throw out the case, which was filled with damning claims, the NFL must now prove that their practices are fair, and it’s obvious as daylight that they are not.
Flores’ lawsuit lays out one hell of a case for quarterbacks, players, scouts, and coaches to join him in a battle to remove the glass ceiling that’s been prevalent for decades.
Doing this at the peak of your coaching career, which Flores did, is brave and courageous, especially when you’re the hottest minority candidate in the job market.
The Dolphins painted Flores as difficult to work with, which is accurate based on plenty of stories from insiders. But what Flores details, which is an owner encouraging his head coach to lose games to ensure they secure the No. 1 pick in 2019, simply looks bad.
Let’s get past the bombshell claims about Ross allegedly trying to pay Flores $100,000 for every loss he’d lead to the team to after the wins started stacking up.
And let’s set aside Flores’ claims that Ross set up an illegal, but common, yacht met-up with a prominent quarterback he had a relationship with (reportedly Tom Brady) who was slated to become a free agent in 2020, because that’s how the NFL really does business.
But so is knowing who an organization wants to hire as its next general manager, head coach and coordinators before the interview processes often begins.
And that’s at the root of Flores’ lawsuit, and the reason why none of the nine vacancies in this head coaching cycle has been filled by a person of color.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is bi-racial, could prevent the shutout if he’s hired by the Dolphins in the coming days. But when more than one-fourth of the NFL’s head coaching positions become open and one person of color (maybe none) is hired there’s a problem.
And this isn’t a secret. The NFL tried to address it by adding some alterations and incentives to the Rooney Rule, which now forces owners to sit down with two candidates of color, and rewards teams that have coordinators and executives of color poached by other teams with draft pick.
But incentives don’t address what the root of the problem is, and that’s hidden biases, and a problem that is systemic.
The true measure of this class action lawsuit is how many of his contemporaries back Flores. How many of them join his crusade.
Kaepernick didn’t kneel alone, and if people of color truly want to see change come to the NFL, they also need to speak up in an attempt to force a league that is made up of mostly Blacks to address its dirty little secrets.