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New Steelers assistant Brian Flores continues discrimination lawsuit

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New Steelers assistant Brian Flores continues discrimination lawsuit
Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was hired Saturday as a Pittsburgh Steelers assistant, will continue his lawsuit against the NFL. File Photo by Alex Butler/UPI

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- New Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant Brian Flores says he will continue his racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, and he wants the league to institute an oversight committee for its head coach hiring process.

Flores made the comments during an appearance Monday on the I Am Athlete show on YouTube. The Steelers hired Flores on Saturday as their senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.

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The Miami Dolphins fired Flores on Jan. 10. Three weeks later, his lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, filed the class-action lawsuit against the NFL and its 32 teams in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"I think the team owners as a whole will say we [the NFL] have a problem with minority hires," Flores said on Monday's show. "I think they all agree with that. The numbers speak to it.

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I think individually, [the owners] will say, 'I, personally, don't have a problem.' Individually, if they don't have issues, that's when nothing happens.

"Each owner needs to look inward and say, 'What can I do to make changes and fix some of these issues?'"

The federal court will conduct an initial pretrial conference, via teleconference, for Flores' lawsuit at March 18.

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"It's qualifications versus familiarity -- I think that's what we are dealing with," Flores said when discussing why more minority candidates aren't hired by NFL teams.

"I think there is a heart change that needs to happen. Ownership has to be more open-minded about minorities and women and their ability to lead in the NFL."

In his lawsuit, Flores also claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him for losses during the 2019 season, an alleged attempt to improve the franchise's pick placement in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Flores said that his failure to comply with that request negatively impacted his relationship with the Dolphins owner and led to his dismissal.

"I think race played a role in my firing," Flores said. "What I mean by that is there were things I was asked to do and conversations had where I was made out to be a difficult person to work with, and my white counterparts wouldn't have been asked to do the things I was asked to do.

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"I'm a strong personality. i know that played a role. You have to be that to be a coach in the NFL."

The NFL's initial statement in response to the lawsuit said that Flores' claims were "without merit," but the league investigating the allegations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Feb. 9 at his annual state of the league news conference that the initial statement related to Flores' "legal claim itself" and not what the former coach "was going through."

Flores maintained that he was interested in being an NFL coach before and after he filed his lawsuit. He interviewed this off-season with the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Houston Texans before they filled their head coach vacancies.

The Dolphins, Giants and Denver Broncos stated publicly earlier this month that they deny Flores' allegations.

Flores, who had two years remaining on his contract with the Dolphins when he was fired, said he did not sign a separation agreement with the franchise, which cleared the way for his lawsuit.

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Goodell told reporters at the state of the league news conference that the NFL could change or remove its requirement for teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs amid a shortage of recent diverse hires.

The mandate, established in 2003 and modified since, is known as the Rooney Rule. It is named after the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner, Dan Rooney. who was chairman of the league's diversity committee and died in 2017.

The rule requires each of the league's teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching positions. The NFL has just three Black head coaches and five minority head coaches, while about 70% of its players are Black.

"From an acumen and intellect standpoint, there are a lot of very capable Black and minority and women who, I would say in a lot of circumstances, are smarter than their white counterparts," Flores said. "There is this myth that we don't have the intellectual prowess. That's just wrong."

The NFL has no Black team owners. The Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars are the only teams with minority ownership. Shahd Kahn, who owns the Jaguars, is a Pakistani American. Bills co-owner Kim Pegula is of South Korean descent.

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"I think there needs to be an oversight committee for hiring and firing in the NFL," Flores said. "And a standardized review process at every position and maybe a federal monitor or collection of individuals who aren't affiliated with team. ... That will create a more equal and fair environment."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the only Black coach in the NFL entering the off-season, before the Houston Texans hired Love Smith and the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, who is multiracial.

"I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL," Tomlin said Saturday in a news release.

"Brian's resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team."

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