Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores is suing the NFL and its 32 teams on claims of racial discrimination within its hiring process for head coaches. File Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The Miami Dolphins deny that franchise owner Stephen Ross requested for ex-coach Brian Flores to sign a non-disclosure agreement amid his firing, the team said in a statement. Flores made the claim in a recent interview.
The Dolphins fired Flores on Jan. 10. Three weeks later, his lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and its 32 teams in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Flores accuses the league and its teams of racial discrimination within its hiring and firing process for head coaches. He also accuses Ross of offering 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.
The federal court will conduct an initial pretrial conference, via teleconference, for Flores' lawsuit on March 18.
Flores said Tuesday on HBO's Real Sports that he would have been "silenced" and not permitted to pursue his legal action had he signed the alleged separation agreement with the franchise. Elefterakis said his client forfeited "millions" with his decision to not sign the agreement.
"This latest assertion by Brian Flores that Steve Ross mentioned an NDA to him is categorically false," the Dolphins said late Tuesday. "This just did not happen and we simply cannot understand why Brian continues this pattern of making unfounded statements that he knows are untrue.
"We are fully cooperating with the NFL investigation and look forward to all of the facts coming out, which we are confident will prove that his claims are false and defamatory."
Flores' lawyers tweeted screenshots of a "draft agreement and payment termination notice" Tuesday in response to the Dolphins' statement.
Two years remained on Flores' contract at the time of his dismissal. He also appeared in an episode of the I Am Athlete show, which aired Monday afternoon on YouTube. Flores told that show that he thinks "race played a role" in his firing.
"What I mean by that is, there were things I was asked to do," Flores said. "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."
Flores' legal team told HBO on Tuesday that they have evidence to support the coach's claims of being offered money from Ross for losses. They also said they are willing to share that evidence with the NFL in its investigation of Ross and are in communication with the league.
The NFL hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to defend itself in the lawsuit. They announced their investigation into the Ross claims after they initially said Flores' accusations were "without merit."
The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Flores on Saturday as their senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. He was previously a candidate for several head coach vacancies, which are now filled. The Steelers' Mike Tomlin ended the 2021-22 season as the only Black coach in the NFL.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters Feb. 9 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 Steelers owner, Dan Rooney. who was chairman of the league's diversity committee and died in 2017.
The NFL now includes five minority head coaches, while nearly 70% of its players are Black. The NFL has no Black team owners.