The Washington Post
Flores will be able to pursue some discrimination claims in court, judge rules
A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores can continue to pursue claims in court against three teams and the NFL in his racial discrimination lawsuit, while Flores and two other Black coaches who joined his suit must submit other claims to league-administered arbitration.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni ruled that Flores’s claims against the Dolphins, Steve Wilks’s claims against the Arizona Cardinals and Ray Horton’s claims against the Tennessee Titans must be submitted to arbitration under the authority of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, based on the terms of their employment contracts. But Flores may litigate his claims in federal court against the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Houston Texans, along with his related claims against the NFL, Caproni ruled.
“This case shines an unflattering spotlight on the employment practices of National Football League (‘NFL’) teams,” Caproni wrote at the outset of her 30-page decision. “Although the clear majority of professional football players are Black, only a tiny percentage of coaches are Black.”
Flores filed the lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Wilks and Horton joined the suit in April. The suit had listed the other NFL teams, identified as “John Doe teams 1 through 26,” as defendants.
“We are pleased that Coach Flores’ class claims of systematic discrimination against the NFL and several teams will proceed in court and ultimately before a jury of his peers,” Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney for Flores, said in a statement. “We are disappointed the court compelled arbitration of any claims before Mr. Goodell as he is obviously biased and unqualified to rule on these matters. We expect him to delegate those matters to a truly neutral arbitrator as a matter of fundamental fairness. We look forward to pursuing all these claims to trial in their various forums.”
The NFL had sought to have all the claims resolved through arbitration.
Flores spent the recently completed NFL season as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being fired by the Dolphins following the 2021 season. He recently was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. He previously interviewed with the Broncos, Giants and Texans for their head coaching jobs.
● MISC.: NFL representatives and members of the competition committee began their annual deliberations over potential rule changes and policy modifications this week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
It does not appear as if the league will enact any major rule changes this offseason. The process will play out in the coming weeks, leading to votes by the team owners on proposed changes during the annual league meeting in late March in Phoenix.
Here’s a look at what was discussed during this week’s competition committee meetings:
The Los Angeles Rams proposed making roughing-the-passer calls reviewable by instant replay.
It appears to be a long shot that the proposal will receive the 24 votes from the 32 owners necessary for ratification.
The committee generally opposes making such subjective calls subject to replay. It made an exception in the 2019 season, when the league and owners made pass interference calls and non-calls reviewable by replay in the aftermath of the uproar over the missed call during the previous season’s NFC championship game. But most regarded the system as a failure, and the NFL and the owners scrapped it after only one season.
The league and committee are discussing the possibility of making hip-drop tackles illegal.
The tackling technique resulted in postseason ankle injuries to Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The issue was discussed during this week’s meeting between NFL health and safety officials and the competition committee.
There’s debate about enacting a rule against pushing the quarterback on sneaks.
The Philadelphia Eagles, in particular, became enthralled with the technique of using Jalen Hurts’s offensive teammates to push him forward on quarterback sneaks. It was effective. But there is concern, Vincent said, that the approach will result in an injury that could be avoided if the NFL makes it illegal for a teammate to push a ballcarrier forward.
There were indications that a team proposed the fourth-and-15 alterative to the onside kick.
Again. The measure has come up in previous offseasons and never was particularly close to receiving the support necessary for ratification. Some owners consider it too much of a gimmick. It would give a team the option to try to retain possession by converting a fourthand-15 play from its 25-yard line. If successful, that team would keep possession of the ball, and its drive would continue. If it failed, the opponent would take possession at the spot at which the play ended.