Former NFL head coach Brian Flores, who on Tuesday filed a blistering racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos, spoke out for the first time since taking legal action in an interview with "CBS Mornings" on Wednesday.
With lawyers Doug Wigdor and John Elefterakis at his side, Flores spoke to a roundtable of "CBS Mornings" hosts, which included former NFL player Nate Burleson. Flores thanked everyone who had reached out to him via text, phone and email to offer him support, saying that it had been a "tough" few days.
Then Flores was asked to describe how he felt when he went through a "sham" interview with the Giants. Through text messages allegedly sent to him by mistake by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Flores had discovered that the Giants had allegedly settled on hiring Brian Daboll for the head coaching job — several days before Flores interviewed for that job.
"It was a range of emotions. Humiliation, disbelief, anger," Flores said. "I've worked so hard to get to where I am in football, to become a head coach. For 18 years in this league and to go on what felt like what was a sham interview, I was hurt."
Asked why he decided to go through with the interview, he said it was hope, and his belief that "there's good in people." That didn't erase the disbelief and humiliation Flores says he felt when he discovered that the interview was allegedly a sham.
Wigdor revealed that Flores had already reached out to them about filing a lawsuit before his interview with the Giants took place.
Flores knows his NFL career might be over
The "CBS Mornings" hosts brought up the Rooney Rule, which was established to help increase the number of minority coaches in the NFL. Flores said that it hadn't worked as intended because now interviewing a minority coach is just something teams have to do before hiring the person they really want to hire.
"What [the Rooney Rule] has turned into is an instance where guys are just checking the box," Flores said. "I've been on some interviews in the past where I've had that feeling. There's always no way to know for sure, but you know — and I know — I'm not alone there."
Knowing that he's not alone in his experiences is what drove Flores to file the lawsuit, even though it will likely hurt his career as an NFL coach.
"I love coaching. I'm gifted to coach, I know that," Flores said. "And the relationships I've built with players, coaches, support staff, I'm gifted to coach and I love coaching and I want to coach. ... But this is bigger than coaching."
Flores also said that he was at peace with his decision to file the lawsuit.
"I understand the risk," Flores said. "And yes, it was a difficult decision, and I went back and forth. And like I said, I love coaching. It's something I'm passionate about, it brings me joy, and I love helping young people reach their potential and become the best version of themselves. I'm gifted to do that. But this is bigger than that."
'This is bigger than football'
Flores sounds like he knows his career in the NFL is likely over. For him, meaningfully tackling the issue of racism in the NFL is worth that sacrifice. Even though he believes that the NFL's racism is obvious, Flores wanted to bring it to the forefront in a way that the league couldn't ignore or brush aside.
"We didn't have to file a lawsuit for the world to know that there's a problem from a hiring standpoint in regards to minority coaches in the National Football League," Flores said. "We filed a lawsuit so that we can create some change, and that's important to me. I think we're at a fork in the road right now. We're either going to keep it the way it is, or we're going to go in another direction and actually make some real change where we're actually changing the hearts and minds of the people who make decisions."
Flores acknowledged that teams have the right to hire whomever they think will be best at the job. But he says that minority coaches aren't being given the chance to fairly compete with white coaches.
"That's very reasonable, but at the same time, I know of a lot of capable coaches and executives who are minorities and in a lot of cases are as qualified, more qualified, and quite frankly better than their white counterparts, and they're not getting the opportunities," Flores said.
At the end of the CBS interview, Flores made it clear that even though coaching is his passion, this isn't just about him.
"I absolutely want to coach in this league. But I also know that I'm not the only story here. I'm not the only one with a story. ... This is bigger than football, bigger than coaching."