The Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as everybody else, were amply aware of the fact that he was suing the NFL and a handful of its constituent teams when they hired Brian Flores to their coaching staff earlier this offseason. It was a major headline when he filed the suit on February 1, the first day of Black History Month, charging that the league fostered or enabled racist and discriminatory hiring practices.
Yet he’s not seen fit to discuss the nature of his lawsuit once while functioning as a member of the Steelers’ coaching staff in the handful of times that he has spoken to NFL reporters since his hiring, including his appearance at minicamp yesterday.
“My focus is really on today—this team, this practice. I try to live in the moment and not think about things that have happened in the past, or are really too far into the future”, he told reporters when he was asked about his lawsuit. “I’m excited about the opportunity here”.
Fellow defensive coach, coordinator Teryl Austin, did tell Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he “support[s] what he’s going wholeheartedly”, though, and of Flores, as part of the suit, “If he needs me, I’m there”.
Teryl Austin said while he is not formally part of Brian Flores’ lawsuit vs. the NFL, “I support what he’s doing wholeheartedly.”
“If he needs me, I’m there. If he needs me, I’m there.” https://t.co/QJbtHO8gMh
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) June 8, 2022
Long before he was on the Steelers’ staff, Austin was the face of the Rooney Rule, something that I wrote about a number of years ago. He was talking back then, in 2016, about his belief that several of the interviews he had gone on for open head-coaching opportunities were merely token interviews carried out to satisfy the requirements of the Rooney Rule.
He talked to Will Graves last year, months before Flores’ lawsuit, about the process yet again. By that point, he had gone on 11 interviews for head-coaching jobs. “I can tell when one was just an (expletive) interview and I could tell when I was really in it”, he said.
Since Flores filed the lawsuit, which he intended to develop into a class-action case, he has been joined by two other plaintiffs, Hue Jackson and former Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who cut his teeth under Dick LeBeau as both a player and coach.
Horton offered as evidence in his own filing a podcast interview giving by former Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who unprompted, volunteered that his biggest regret in his coaching career was being willing to partake in a sham interview process when he got the Tennessee Titans job, knowing that he had already gotten the job as they continued to conduct routine interviews to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
The intention remains for others to eventually join Flores’ suit. Will Austin eventually make the decision to join? He has spoken out about the substance of what the lawsuit is about for the better part of a decade already. He certainly would have something to offer. He also continues to harbor aspirations of being a head coach himself one day, after many years of trying. How would that affect his decision to join the lawsuit?