Two Additional Black Coaches Join Brian Flores’ Class-Action Lawsuit Against the NFL

Steve-wilks-nfl
Steve Wilks is one of the former NFL Black coaches who have joined Brian Flores in his class action lawsuit against the National Football League. Image: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and longtime NFL assistant Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, ESPN reports.

The amended lawsuit that was filed in the Southern District of New York asks for “increased transparency in NFL hiring, incentives for hiring Black coaches, and increased visibility for Black assistant coaches,” among other things.

In the suit, Flores’ legal team alleges that the Texans “retaliated” against Flores by removing him from consideration for their head-coaching vacancy “due to his decision to file this action and speak publicly about systemic discrimination in the NFL.”

Lawyers claim that Wilks was discriminated against as a “bridge coach” and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed. In one season in Arizona, Wilks was 3-13 before being terminated and replaced by Kliff Kingsbury. The attorneys wrote that while Kingsbury has been successful, “Mr. Wilks, given the same opportunity afforded to Mr. Kingsbury, surely would have succeeded as well.”

After spending one season as the University of Missouri’s defensive coordinator, Wilks returned to the NFL last year as pass game coordinator and secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers 

The Cardinals released a statement addressing the matter.

“The decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult ones,” the statement read. “But as we said at the time, they were entirely driven by what was in the best interests of our organization and necessary for team improvement. We are confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue.”

Horton worked as a defensive coordinator for the Titans in 2014-15 and interviewed for the team’s head-coaching job. Lawyers claimed he was given a “completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position.”

Eventually, the Titans hired Mike Mularkey for the job,. Horton left to be the defensive coordinator in Cleveland; he is now retired.

In a 2020 podcast, Murlarkeu said that the Titans’ owners told him he would be hired before they’d completed the interview process, which included interviewing two minority candidates in accordance with the Rooney Rule.

In a statement to ESPN issued before the filing of the lawsuit, the Titans disputed Mularkey’s interpretation interview process.

“Our 2016 head coach search was an open and competitive process during which we conducted in-person interviews with four candidates and followed all NFL rules,” the team said. “The organization was undecided on its next head coach during the process and made its final decision after consideration of all four candidates following the completion of the interviews.”

As EBONY previously reported, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and the New York Giants, alleging a pattern of discrimination against Black head coaches and executives.

As evidence of his claims, the suit cites a text exchange between Flores and Bill Belichick, who he worked with for 14 years, showing the New England Patriots coach congratulating Flores for getting the Giants job, even though his interview was days away. The next day, Belichick allegedly tried to rectify the situation by texting Flores that he thought he was communicating with Brian Daboll.

“Sorry — I f–ked this up,” Belichick’s text read. “I double-checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that.”

Flores was considered a top prospect for the Giants’ job after interviewing with the Chicago Bears, who ended up hiring Matt Eberflus, and the Houston Texans who have hired Lovie Smith.

The NFL has declined to comment on the amended lawsuit.

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