One of the principal items on the agenda for the owners at the annual league meeting last weekend was to try to once again, address the subject of hiring practices pertaining to the employment of minorities and women in the coaching ranks. They have taken further steps in attempts to try to produce more minority hires in the future, with past efforts not yielding the results they have been after.
Meanwhile, the NFL and at least three teams—soon to be at least five—are facing a lawsuit filed by one of their own coaches, Brian Flores. After spending three seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he was surprisingly fired this offseason. He is suing the league, as well as the Dolphins, the New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos.
That didn’t stop head coach Mike Tomlin, and owner Art Rooney II, from hiring him this offseason, to the role of senior defensive assistant. While they have addressed the decision numerous times, Rooney did so again when he spoke to reporters at the meetings last week.
“We hired Brian because we think he is a qualified coach and will be an asset to us”, he said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The lawsuit can create an awkward situation at times. But look, we are in respect of the lawsuit, we remain committed — I remain committed — to improving the situation in every way we can. And we’ve been working hard to do that”.
Rooney has, of course, long been vocal about his belief that the NFL’s league-wide hiring practices are insufficient in the area of promoting and producing diverse bodies in the coaching and executive ranks. After all, the rule legislating diverse interview requirements is named after his father.
Being willing to hire a coach who is actively suing the league, accusing racist hiring practices, is a significant gesture in that direction, though of course the decision was made on the basis of his ability to coach players. Still, he noted, correctly, that it could make things ‘awkward’.
Things are going to get a bit more awkward soon. It has been reported that two new plaintiffs are due to join the suit later this week, and also that two new teams will be added as defendants in the case. It had already been speculated that the Houston Texans would be added, but it is not known whether they will be part of this addition, nor is it currently known which plaintiffs will be added.
It was always Flores’ intention with his lawsuit all along to pick up additional plaintiffs for a class-action lawsuit, given that the contention has been all along that the league’s racist hiring practices have been extensive and affecting many candidates.
Right now, it’s still the early stages of April. We might not hear from Flores until training camp. I would imagine that we’re not going to hear a whole lot about this for a while, but once the lawsuit kicks into high gear, that could certainly change. Players, of course, will be asked about it. But then they will go back to practice, just like with every other ‘awkward’ situation in the past.