The National Football League is reportedly hiring former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to defend it against the lawsuit former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed over alleged racial discrimination.
Currently a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Lynch is working with the law firm’s chairman Brad Karp on the litigation, according to Bloomberg Law. The Dolphins, one of the teams named as a defendant and their owner Stephen Ross have turned to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan litigator William Burck for legal defense.
Lynch served as Attorney General during the latter part of Barack Obama’s administration, the first African American woman to hold the position. She became a partner with the firm in 2019 and worked on a 2020 inquiry into misconduct claims involving the then-Washington Football Team. The firm has a lengthy relationship with the NFL and has been a part of almost 25 percent of league cases handled in federal courts, Bloomberg Law says.
Flores’ lawsuit has rocked the world of not only football but pro sports in general, with far reaching implications on the nature of discrimination in professional athletic management.
There are currently only five minority head coaches in the NFL. Two were fired and two were hired this offseason. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has since stated that every option is on the table in regards to combatting the league’s fraught past in dealing with racism, including replacing the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview two minority coaches before making a final decision on a hire.
Flores filed a lawsuit against the Dolphins, the NFL and two other teams – the Denver Broncos and New York Giants – earlier this month, alleging he was discriminated against during his interview processes with the latter two organizations and firing from the Dolphins last month.
According to ESPN, the 58-page lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court on February 1 and seeks class-action status. Flores, who is Black alleges that Ross tried to incentivize him to purposely lose games shortly after he was hired in 2019.
Flores says that as the team won games, Ross allegedly offered him $100,000 for every game he’d lose. Miami general manager Chris Grier told him that Ross was “mad” that Flores’ late-season winning was “compromising [the team’s] draft position.”
The suit also includes text messages he alleges are from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick demonstrating that the Giants conducted an interview with Flores knowing they intended to hire someone else to be head coach and to comply with the Rooney Rule.
“While racial barriers have been eroded in many areas, Defendant the National Football League (“NFL” or the “League”) lives in a time of the past,” the lawsuit states. “As described throughout this Class Action Complaint, the NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers.”
It continues, in-part: “Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organizations (the “Teams”) have been given every chance to do the right thing. Rules have been implemented, promises made—but nothing has changed. In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity.”
Since Flores filed his lawsuit, the Houston Texans hired former Tamba Bay and Chicago head coach Lovie Smith, a Black man, for their top job, and the Dolphins have hired Mike McDaniels, who is described as biracial.