Flores has a class-action suit pending accusing the NFL of discriminatory hiring practices. It also alleges that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to bribe him to lose games in 2019 to enhance the team’s draft position, a charge Ross denied.
Flores, who is Black, had not alleged his dismissal was related to race until now.
“I think race played a role in my firing,” Flores said on the “I Am Athlete” podcast. “What I mean by that is, there were things I was asked to do. There were conversations that were had. I was made out to be a difficult person to work with. I think my white counterparts wouldn’t have been asked to do the things I was asked to do.”
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Flores appeared on the podcast with former receivers Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson, who both briefly played for the Dolphins before Flores arrived, and Sun-Sentinel Dolphins reporter Omar Kelly.
Flores did not specify which “things” were requested of him that he felt were inappropriate.
The Dolphins referred to their earlier statement released by Ross.
“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding," Ross said. "I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory. We understand there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization, from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”
When Flores was fired Jan. 10, Ross cited his inability to work collaboratively.
“Look,” Flores said. “I’m a strong personality. I know that played a role. You need to be that to be a head coach in the National Football League.”
Flores on the timing of the suit: 'I thought there was power in filing it then'
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Saturday that they were adding Flores to Mike Tomlin’s staff as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers. When the suit was filed, Tomlin was the league’s lone Black head coach and Flores was a finalist for head coaching openings with the New York Giants and Houston Texans. Flores said he wished to make a statement by filling the suit, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, while under consideration for head coaching positions.
“I thought there was power in filing it right then,” he said. “I was going to put it all on the line. That’s how important it was to me.”
It originally appeared Flores made a concerted effort to avoid linking the Dolphins to racism. While serving as Dolphins coach, he and general manager Chris Grier formed the only Black head coach/GM tandem in the NFL. In addition, Marvin Allen is the assistant GM and Reggie McKenzie is senior personnel executive. They too are Black. The Dolphins were honored by the Fritz Pollard Alliance in 2020 for diversity.
Two years ago, NBC analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, speaking in West Palm Beach, called Ross’ diverse hiring practices “a blueprint” for the league. He credited Ross with thinking “outside the box” to find qualified candidates.
"I think they look for a leader," Dungy said at the time. "They look for somebody from a winning organization who had leadership qualities, who can direct them for a long time, and Brian Flores reminds me a lot of myself.”
Believing that taking the matter to court could benefit minorities in general, Flores said he told his wife, Jennifer, “I’m not going to be able to live with myself if I don’t file this lawsuit.”
Flores said he declined to sign the Dolphins’ separation agreement — thus giving up pay for the remaining two years on his contract — because it would have meant conceding the right to sue or speak his mind. Flores still must contend with a common clause in NFL contracts calling for disputes to be settled by arbitration rather than in court.
The Texans’ job instead went to Lovie Smith, a Black man who hadn’t been considered a finalist. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is biracial.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking during Super Bowl week, acknowledged frustration at the league’s inability to achieve diversity in key positions including head coach and general manager.
On the podcast, Flores said NFL owners ignore qualifications and instead side with familiarity while hiring mostly white men for high-ranking positions.
“There’s a change of heart that needs to happen,” Flores said. “We’ve got to open our minds up.”
Goodell speculated it might be time to scrap the Rooney Rule, which requires minority candidates to be interviewed for key openings, in favor of a more comprehensive strategy to promote diversity. Flores said change will require Black ownership of NFL teams and an “oversight committee” to review hiring and firing throughout the league.
“Maybe it’s a collection of individuals that aren’t affiliated with the team,” he said.
Johnson responded by saying NFL owners would never cede such control.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Brian Flores says race played role in firing; Dolphins deny accusation