By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Reporter
Brian Flores wants NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make sure his class action lawsuit against the league and several teams for allegedly racist hiring practices isn’t settled behind closed doors.
Flores said Monday that if Goodell really wants to make the kind of change the top NFL executive has been talking about following the former Miami Dolphins head coach’s unprecedented legal maneuver, then Goodell should make sure that the case is tried by a jury of Flores peers. rather than arbitration.
“I think Commissioner Goodell has the clout to do the right thing,” Flores said on a conference call with lawmakers to speak in favor of the FAIR Act, which would end forced arbitration. “I don’t think you can create this change in a secret setting, a confidential setting. … I think he has influence to make sure that (a jury trial) takes place.”
Flores, hired as a senior defensive assistant for the Pittsburgh Steelers last month, filed his lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos following his firing by Miami. Flores led the Dolphins to consecutive winning seasons before being fired in January.
Miami requested the matter be referred to an arbitrator last month.
Flores’ lawsuit alleges the league discriminated against him and other black coaches on racial grounds, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterback coaches, as well as of general managers. Flores also claims that Miami offered him $100,000 per loss in his first season with the team in 2019 in an attempt to receive a first draft pick.
Flores, speaking at a panel that included Democratic congressmen Hank Johnson of Georgia and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, said he had no idea when he signed his contract with Miami in 2019 that the Dolphins could force him into arbitration.
“The last thing on your mind is the arbitration clause that if it all goes wrong…or if you’re aggrieved, you’re going to be forced into a setting where really the odds are against you,” Flores mentioned. “It’s not what you think.”
Flores isn’t sure knowing would have changed his decision anyway.
“Even if I knew it, where is the bargaining power?” said Flores. “What, I’m going to say no? There’s an injustice there. It’s obvious.”
The FAIR Act, which will be considered in Congress this week, would prevent employers from hiding forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of employee documents and consumer agreements. Flores thinks removing this option would better protect employees.
Flores added that the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview candidates from outside minorities for leadership positions on the coaching staff and in the front office, is well-intentioned but flawed.
“If there’s going to be any real change, whether it’s from a head coach, a general manager or even an ownership level, there’s going to have to be some kind of control. about these hiring and firing practices in the NFL,” he said. “It’s going to have to come from an outside source. If there’s a solution to that, I think that’s what it is.”
As Flores takes a stand in hopes of creating more opportunities for minorities in the NFL, he believes forced officiating is a barrier to progress in all areas of work.
“With this system in place, how can we trust that real justice and real change can happen?” said Flores. “They know it’s a rigged system where they know they really can’t get justice. … I know it doesn’t just happen in football, it happens in all industries.
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