We all deserve full transparency in Brian Flores' lawsuit against NFL, Dolphins | Habib
You see the words “Brian Flores” and lawsuit, your eyes glaze over. I get it. More lawyers and more charges and countercharges. Another motion that defies that very word.
So, let’s cut through this.
Just as NFL games are played out on Sunday afternoons in bright sunshine (at least Dolphins home games are), so, too, should Flores’ case against the NFL and the Dolphins. Fans paid serious money to see games. They have a right to know whether those games were what they thought they were, not something Vince McMahon could have cooked up. They have a right to tear back the curtain and see the mechanism blocking diversity in the league.
Plus, this lawsuit has tentacles that can affect you. For reasons that soon will become clear, the term “forced arbitration” should draw an automatic flag in your mind. Because someday, it could be forced upon you.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has promised to share the findings, should Flores’ accusations prove true. Not good enough. Fans have a right to know all the gory details, regardless of how it turns out. Goodell all but said so himself, calling the accusations “very disturbing.”
Well, Rog, you’re not the only one worked up.
“Mr. Goodell should have done the right thing, disclaimed arbitration altogether and allowed this case to be tried before a jury representing a cross-section of the community, just like those who watch football, ” wrote Flores’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis.
Stephen Ross might want all the facts to come out, too
Flores was fired by the Dolphins immediately after the season, then sued in U.S. District Court, charging the league with racist hiring practices and alleging that owner Stephen Ross offered a $100,000 bribe for each loss in 2019 to enhance the team’s draft position. Ross vehemently denied the claim, calling it an attack on his integrity.
You think, if Flores can’t prove his case, Ross wouldn’t love for everyone to know exactly why it didn’t hold water? On the other hand, if it is true, it’s one thing to strip down a roster and stockpile draft picks, quite another to even suggest not giving an honest effort come Sunday.
Two other coaches have attached their names to the suit, alleging racist hiring practices around the league. Mike Mularkey, who is white, added credence, saying he was assured of the Tennessee Titans’ head coaching job in 2016 before that organization conducted sham interviews just to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
It’s easy to hear “lawsuit” and associate it with “court.” Except the league went to court Thursday to push this case into arbitration or oblivion, which may as well be the same thing. League lawyers claim Flores’ case is without merit. Ring a bell? That was the NFL’s knee-jerk response immediately after the suit was filed.
So, if you’re keeping score, the case was “without merit,” then “very disturbing,” and now it’s back to lacking legal merit. Talk about a double reverse.
But hey, the NFL will get back to us if it thinks there’s anything we ought to know.
You probably are bound by arbitration and don't know it
A brief timeout, if you will.
Do you use a cellphone? Have cable or satellite TV? A job? Think back to the “terms of service” agreement you didn’t read but signed. Buried in that legalese in agate type is a clause saying that if you have a beef with said company, your options are 1.) Forced arbitration or 2.) Lump it. It’s a beautiful piece of literature from the company’s perspective that stacks the deck against you.
Of course, it’s included in NFL contracts, which is how the league is trying to stiff-arm Flores. The NFL actually got him coming and going because the Dolphins wanted him to sign a separation agreement or he wouldn’t get paid for the remaining two years on his contract. He refused.
The good news: A bill is working its way through Congress called the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which would end forced arbitration, at least in the workplace.
“We have said from the start that if the NFL wants to create change, the first step is to allow for transparency,” Flores’ lawyers said. “The NFL’s attempt to force these claims into arbitration demonstrates an unmistakable desire to avoid any public accountability and ensure that these claims are litigated behind closed doors in a forum stacked against our clients.”
After consulting its playbook, the league called in heavy hitters to protect the shield, including Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. attorney general (2015-17). The legal team pointed to that aforementioned fine print in the contract Flores signed when hired.
“Mr. Flores himself alleges that he was terminated by the Dolphins for reasons plainly unrelated to his race including his alleged refusal to intentionally lose games or to violate NFL rules,” league lawyers wrote.
That’s not what Flores said when he participated in an “I Am Athlete” YouTube discussion in February.
“I think race played a role in my firing,” Flores said. “What I mean by that is, there were things I was asked to do. There were conversations that were had. I was made out to be a difficult person to work with. I think my white counterparts wouldn’t have been asked to do the things I was asked to do.”
Other than promising transparency if Flores’ bribery accusation can be confirmed, Goodell didn’t say whether investigator Mary Jo White’s other findings relating to diversity or tanking would be released. Beth Wilkinson, another league appointee, recently concluded an investigation into sexual misconduct within Washington’s team, now called the Commanders.
How’d it turn out?
The findings were not made public.