There's no question that the allegations of systemic racism and "token" hiring practices levied against the NFL by Brian Flores (in a class-action lawsuit that was filed on the first day of Black History Month) have gotten most of the attention in the MSM.
But as the press delves further into the details contained in Flores' lawsuit, which was officially filed with the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, it's clear that Flores' allegations don't stop at racism, and also include allegations of game-fixing levied against one of the most powerful people in the League, Miami Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross.
The mainstream press was mostly preoccupied with Ross's claims that he was tricked into a "sham" job interview by the New York Giants because the team had already made up its mind to hire Brian Daboll as the new head coach of the New York Giants before interviewing him, allegedly to satisfy the "Rooney Rule", a league policy requiring that minority candidates be considered for top coaching jobs. As evidence, he cited a series of "mistaken" texts sent by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He also claimed in the lawsuit that the NFL was managed "like a plantation". But his claims didn't end with the allegedly racist policy.
He also spilled some inside dirt from within the Miami Dolphins organization, from which he had just been unceremoniously fired. Specifically, he accused no less a figure than Miami Dolphins owner and NYC real-estate developer Steve Ross of offering him up to $100K per loss, a price-fixing scandal purportedly borne of a strategy to protect the team's draft pick position.
Flores claims his resistance to ownership's demands (he instead led the Dolphins to their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003) eventually led to his firing.
Here's what the lawsuit claims:
The Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross, was unhappy with this performance not because it was under-performing. To the contrary, Mr. Ross wanted the Mr. Flores to “tank” the season to put the team in position to secure the first pick in the draft. Indeed, during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for each game lost that year. Then, when the Dolphins started winning games, due in no small part to Mr. Flores’ coaching, Mr. Flores was told by the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, that “Steve” was “mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”
Allegations of game-fixing should be explosive - for all we know it could be the most explosive scandal to rock the league since 'deflategate'. Flores' allegations undoubtedly conjure images of shady organized-crime characters trying to fix the World Series. The former head coach claims he was asked to throw games to protect the team's "draft position". But as Flores correctly claims, allegations like this compromise the "integrity" of the game, which is why he decided to disobey. But it certainly should make NFL fans wonder how much of what they're saying is real, genuine competition, and not pre-arranged match-fixing.
He expanded on this in an interview with CBS This Morning, where he again claim he felt like the request was an attack on his "integrity" which is why he refused to comply. Still, as Gayle King correctly asserts, the look at what goes on "behind closed doors" isn't good.
Flores also alleged rule-breaking on Ross's behalf when he was later pressured to illegally recruit (in violation of league rules) a quarterback. When he declined to pursue a meeting with the player, Flores claims Ross tried to "set him up" for a meeting with the QB on the billionaire's yacht. Instead of holding the meeting in contravention of league rules, Flores claimed he left immediately.
After this, he claims he was "treated with disdain" by the organization.
After the end of the 2019 season, Mr. Ross began to pressure Mr. Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of League tampering rules. Mr. Flores repeatedly refused to comply with these improper directives. Undeterred, in the winter of 2020, Mr. Ross invited Mr. Flores onto a yacht for lunch. Shortly after he arrived, Mr. Ross told Mr. Flores that the prominent quarterback was “conveniently” arriving at the marina. Obviously, Mr. Ross had attempted to “set up” a purportedly impromptu meeting between Mr. Flores and the prominent quarterback. Mr. Flores refused the meeting and left the yacht immediately. After the incident, Mr. Flores was treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.
In its response to the lawsuit, the NFL didn't even mention Flores' claims about Ross's behavior.
"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. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."
Whether the NFL ever is forced to reckon with these charges remains to be seen. It's certainly something that might interest federal prosecutors, with echoes of the baseball steroid scandal in the 1990s. But one prominent sports journalist was likely correct when he claimed Flores risked being forever "blackballed" from the sport with the game-fixing comments alone.
To be clear, in accusing NYG of violating Rooney and the Dolphins owner of match-fixing, Brian Flores, 40, is risking being blackballed from ever coaching in the NFL again. The courage he’s showing for the benefit of the game and every Black person in football is monumental. https://t.co/Gf0y65NlVI— robertklemko (@RobertKlemko) February 1, 2022
Of course, there are still five head coaching vacancies in the NFL, so there's plenty of room for this story to continue. But for some reason, while the sports press has focused so intently on Flores' allegations of racism, the response to the game-fixing allegations has been much more tepid.
Readers can find a copy of the lawsuit below: