Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores filed suit against the National Football League and some of its constituent teams on February 1 before he was a member of the organization, his hiring following within the following weeks. We are now into September gearing up for the start of the regular season, and the lawsuit is still ongoing—though that certainly is not a surprise.
Earlier during the offseason, the NFL pushed to have the suit go to arbitration, or rather through the league’s own private channels, to which Flores and his fellow plaintiffs—other NFL coaches, Ray Horton and Hue Jackson—strongly objected in papers filed in court in response this past week.
Via Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press, the response called the league’s arbitration process “unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’”, which they have used to navigate many a muddy water, particularly under current league commissioner Roger Goodell, who was also subject to direct criticism.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also analyzed the court document, which says that the arbitration cases the NFL conducts “bear no resemblance to a neutral judicial forum and fail to comport with basic principles of fairness”. It specifically cites the fact that Goodell cannot possibly be impartial, and he oversees the arbitration process.
Flores and his legal team have from the very beginning fought to keep the matter from going to arbitration, stressing the importance that the legal matters all play out in the public eye—indeed, he has explicitly stated that that was the goal, to expose his accusations to the light, rather than keep it behind closed doors.
The filing argues that a decision on arbitration in the league’s favor could have far-reaching consequences beyond the NFL, in that it could compel employers to “change their arbitration clauses to permit the appointment of an obviously biased decision-maker”.
Flores spent the previous three seasons as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins before being fired this offseason in a move that was almost unanimously regarded as a surprise. The Dolphins, along with the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos, were the defendant teams originally named in the suit, though others followed.
By and large, the suit alleges racist hiring practices within the NFL, including the manner in which teams fulfill the candidacy requirements of the Rooney Rule, which stipulates that teams must interview minorities for vacant head coaching, coordinator, and high front office positions.
If the league is successful in arguing for arbitration, then at least significant parts of the case could fade out of the public eye, but as Florio points out, it is difficult to even determine which aspects are eligible for arbitration in the first place.
In the meantime, Flores is preparing to coach football with the Steelers, something that he would argue is all he ever wanted to do, on an even platform with every other coach for opportunities. He is widely expected to be a head coach again in the near future; if not in 2023, then soon after.