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Brian Flores took a big risk suing the NFL. Here's why he thinks it's worth it

It was an abrupt move that not many could have foreseen. Despite an impressive three-year showing with the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores was fired from his position as head coach last month in a surprising end to a contract that was supposed to last for two more years.

What's followed could be described as a "reckoning" for the NFL: Flores filed a class-action lawsuitagainst the league and its 32 franchises citing racial discrimination, a move that's prompted a closer look at the NFL's hiring practices and the racial makeup of those in power.

As Flores explains in a new, upcoming interview with NPR host Jay Williams for The Limits with Jay Williams, the ultimate goal is change – even if he gets blackballed in the process.

"If there's significant change," Flores says. "If I never coach again but there's a significant change, it'll be worth it."

"I'm not thinking of me," he says. "I'm thinking of those younger generations."

Following Flores suit, which was filed on the first day of Black History Month, the NFL issued a statement denying the claims, describing them as "without merit."

In a revealing interview with Williams, which will be available later today, Flores discusses the lawsuit, texts from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek that starkly underscore problems in the hiring process, the NFL's Rooney rule and discrimination that minority coaches face, as well as his hopes for the future.

Interview Highlights

On how he decided to file the lawsuit

I went back and forth on that. I did. I knew that it was a sacrifice that I was making, but I also felt like it was necessary. This isn't about me. This is about something that's much bigger than me, which is a system in the NFL that, in my opinion, is broken as far as hiring practices for Black and minority coaches and minorities in general. ...

The text messages from Bill Belichick confirmed a lot of things that I believed were going on for Blacks and minorities in the hiring process. Interviews that Blacks and minorities were going on, where we weren't getting a true opportunity in those interviews to showcase our abilities. ... To walk into an interview where a decision's already been made, that was the tipping point for me. That confirmation was something that I felt like I had to say something.

On why he was fired by the Miami Dolphins

I wouldn't do the things that they wanted me to do. From a character and integrity standpoint, there was no way I was going to tank. Ultimately, I think that's why. Or, I know that's why.

On what he would to Dolphins fans who don't believe his story

Let's let it play out. In all things, I try to be honest and transparent. I think Dolphins fans felt that in my time there. That's who I am. That's part of my core belief and principles. I say, let's let it play out.

On problems in NFL hiring practices

I do think that there are back channel conversations and back channel meetings that are had that oftentimes influence decisions. I think [the Giants hiring process] is a clear example of that. Here's Bill Belichick, his resume speaks for itself. He has influence. It was clear that that decision was made with his influence. That's part of the problem. That needs to change. There needs to be a fair and equal opportunity to interview and showcase your abilities to lead and earn one of those positions.

Listen to the full interview on The Limits podcast later this evening.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young

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