The lawsuit that Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores filed against the National Football League, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and the Houston Texans, is not really about himself and his own experiences. To hear him tell it, the reason that he filed the lawsuit, charging racial discrimination, is to invoke change to empower others in the future.
“If there’s actual change that comes from us filing this lawsuit, and young black and brown boys look up and see that there’s eight, 10 black NFL head coaches, and they’re not limited to just being players, then it’s worth it”, he said on the I Am Athlete podcast this past week with Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, and Miami Herald writer Omar Kelly discussing the lawsuit among other topics.
Flores, who had been the head coach of the Dolphins for the past three seasons, filed his lawsuit on February 1, the first day of Black History Month, which he said was not unintentional. He explained the timing, and said that he wanted to make it clear that he was willing to damage himself in order to make a point and show that it’s not about himself.
“I thought there was power in filing it right then. I thought there was power in the world knowing that I was gonna put all of it on the line”, he said. “That’s how important this is to me. And that’s how important it is to a lot of people. A lot of people that I don’t know, and generations moving behind me, that I probably won’t get to know”.
Flores was asked by the Dolphins organization after firing him to sign a separation agreement with a Non-Disparagement Agreement, which is standard practice when let go with multiple years left to be paid. He chose not to sign it and allow Miami to go after the salary that he was still owed for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, which likely cost him several million dollars.
“There was a point there where I went back and forth. I know what I’m risking. I know what I may be sacrificing”, he said. “But there was a point where, I’m talking to my wife and saying, ‘I’m not gonna be able to live with myself if I don’t file this lawsuit. I’m gonna have so many regrets, not because of me, but because of everyone that comes behind me’”.
Flores has already sacrificed significant money, and perhaps his standing in many circles in the game, for his decision to file the lawsuit that he continues to pursue—or his representation continues to pursue—now while a member of the Steelers’ coaching staff. And I do think his intentions are genuine, here, given what he is risking.
There was a moment during the video podcast in which he was asked how he would deal with potentially having the game taken away from him over his lawsuit. He was clearly hit by the question, as though recognizing it’s something that has already weighed heavily on him for some time.
“There are sacrifices that need to be made for this type of change”, he said. I absolutely love coaching football. God put me here to coach football and make an impact. I firmly believe that”. He added, “I’m here to coach, and I’m here to make an impact; I think this is my impact now. This is where I’m gonna make an impact, for black, and brown, and women, and minorities, so that they’re not dealing with unfair practices and situations [where] they’re not getting a fair and equal opportunity to get these leadership positions that they’re more than qualified, more than capable of doing an incredible job at.
If you actually listen to Flores talk, and you hear his story, you can tell that he has a pure and genuine love and passion for the game of football. And I think that is part of his argument, that he is willing to potentially sacrifice something that so defines who he is for something he believes is much greater—and for the good of the game he loves, as well.