Two More Black Coaches Join Brian Flores’ Discrimination Lawsuit

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit has disrupted how business moves in the NFL. 

Now, two more plaintiffs have joined, as Steve Wilks, who was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, an NFL assistant who interviewed for the Tennessee Titans’ head-coaching position in 2016, became part of the amended complaint last Thursday, Apr. 7.

This suit now includes the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Houston Texans, the Titans and Cardinals, as well as 26 other “John Doe” NFL teams.

All parties attached allege in the amended complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, that the included football organizations “retaliated” against Flores, Wilks, and Horton, by conducting sham interviews, not offering incentives to advance higher, or removing them from consideration altogether. 

The complaint asks for, among other things, increased transparency in NFL hiring, incentives for hiring Black coaches, and increased visibility for Black assistant coaches, according to ESPN. “When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself, and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him,” Wilks, who currently works for the Carolina Panthers, said in a statement released by his lawyers. “This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality.”

The Cardinals responded, claiming, “The decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult ones. But as we said at the time, they were entirely driven by what was in the best interests of our organization and necessary for team improvement. We are confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue.”

Horton, who was the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans during the 2014-2015 season and interviewed for the team’s head-coaching job, said via lawyers that he was given a “completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position.” 

Mike Mularkey, who is white, ended up receiving the job, and Horton left to be the defensive coordinator in Cleveland. Mularkey was fired in 2018 by the team. Mularkey would later say in a 2020 podcast that the Titans’ owners told him that he was going to get the job before they even completed the interview process. 

In the NFL, there are currently only six minority head coaches. Two were fired and three were hired during the offseason. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has since stated that he wanted to combat the league’s not-so-good past in dealing with racism, by replacing the league’s Rooney Rule with an advanced one. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview two minority coaches to be considered before a team makes a final decision on a hire.

According to ESPN, the 58-page lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court and seeks class-action status, which is how Wilks and Morton were able to join it. 

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