July 13, 2024

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Steve Wilkes and Ray Horton join Brian Flores’ lawsuit against NFL teams in alleging racism in employment practices

Lawyers for former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is suing the NFL for racial discrimination in hiring practices, added two other former NFL coaches to an amended complaint Thursday.

Steve Wilkes, who was the Arizona Cardinals head coach for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, the NFL assistant since 1994 who interviewed the Tennessee Titans coaching staff in 2016, are now part of the lawsuit against the NFL, and Dolphins, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Titans and Cardinals, plus 26 other “John Doe” NFL teams. Titans, Cardinals, and Texans have been added to the suit as part of the mod as well.

Flores’ attorneys claimed in the amended complaint that the Texans “retaliated” against Flores by removing him from their vacant coaching position “because of his decision to lift this measure and speak out about systemic discrimination in the NFL.”

The amended lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York. It calls for, among other things, greater transparency in hiring in the NFL, incentives to hire black coaches and greater visibility for black assistant coaches.

Lawyers say Wilkes was singled out as a “bridge coach” who “was given no meaningful chance of success. Wilkes was 3-13 in one season with Arizona before being fired and replaced with Cliff Kingsbury. While Kingsbury was successful,” lawyers wrote, “Mr. And surely Wilkes, if given the same opportunity as Mr. Kingsbury, would have succeeded, too.”

“When Coach Flores lifted this measure, I knew I owed it to myself and all of my black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches to stand with him,” Wilkes said in a statement released by his attorneys. “This lawsuit has shed more important light on a problem we all know exists, but very few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to hire, and stay in jobs, as white coaches and candidates. This is not currently the case, I look forward to working with coach Flores and coach Horton to make sure that the NFL’s racial equality ambition becomes a reality.”

Wilkes returned to the NFL this year as a passing game coordinator and minor coach for the Carolina Panthers after spending one season as a defensive coordinator at the University of Missouri.

Horton was the Titans’ defensive coordinator in 2014-2015 and interviewed for the team’s lead coaching job. Lawyers said the interview was “a completely bogus interview conducted solely to comply with the Rooney rule and to demonstrate the appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position.” The Giants hired Mike Mullarkey, who is white, for the job, leaving Horton to be the defensive coordinator at Cleveland. He has since retired.

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Molarkey, who was the team’s interim coach for the final nine game of the 2015 season, said on the 2020 broadcast that Titans’ owners had told him he would get the job before they completed the interview process, including interviewing two. Minority candidates.

Molarkey’s comments, part of an extensive interview with the “Steelers Realm” podcast, were in response to a question about his regrets during his career. The allegations are taking on new significance since Flores filed his lawsuit in February, alleging he was discriminated against during interviews for key coaching jobs.

“I’ve always prided myself on doing the right thing in this business and I can’t say it’s true for everyone in this business,” Molarkey said on the podcast. “It’s a very violent act and a lot of guys will tell you that… I did allow myself at one point when I was in Tennessee to be involved in something that I regret and still regret. But the ownership is there, Amy Adams Strunk and her family attended and told me I would be head coach in 2016 before they were subject to the Rooney Rules.And so I sat there knowing I was the head coach in ’16 where they went through this dummy hiring process.Knowing a lot of the coaches they were interviewing, knowing how willing they were to do those interviews, knowing that all they could do And they had no chance of getting that job. In fact, the general manager, John Robinson, was in the interview with me. He had no idea why I was interviewed – that I already had the job. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did. That wasn’t It is the way to do it.”

ESPN became aware of the interview, which was not widely circulated at the time, as part of reporting on the issues raised by Flores’ lawsuit and reached out to Mularkey for comment prior to filing the amended lawsuit. Molarkey was fired by the Titans in 2017 after going 9-7 in successive seasons and losing to the New England Patriots in the playoff round.

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“I think you have the truth and what you need,” Mularkey told ESPN via email. “I prefer not to comment any further.”

In a statement to ESPN issued before the lawsuit was filed, The Titans questioned Mularkey’s recollection of what happened during the interview process, but did not make Adams Strunk or any other executives available for comment.

“Our search for the 2016 Head Coach was an open and competitive process during which we interviewed four candidates and followed all NFL rules,” the statement said. “The organization was hesitant about its next coach during the process and made its final decision after considering all four candidates after completing the interviews.”

Two minority candidates who were finalists for the Titans job in 2016, Terrell Austin and Horton, did not respond to repeated interview requests by ESPN prior to filing the lawsuit. Austin is currently the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, working on the same staff as Flores. Flores, who was sacked in January after three seasons with Dolphin, was appointed in February by coach Mike Tomlin to be a senior defensive assistant and full-back coach.

The NFL, when contacted by ESPN before the lawsuit was filed, said it was unaware of Mullarkey’s comments before he was asked about them.

“I did a lot of internal research and it never really made it into the NFL,” said Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications. “We were not aware of this as an issue.”

“I am proud to stand with coach Flores and coach Wilkes in combating the systemic discrimination that has plagued the NFL for far too long,” Horton said in a statement released by his attorneys. “When I learned from coach Molarkey’s statements that a head coach’s interview with the Titans was fake, I was shocked and insulted. By joining this case, I hope to turn this experience into a positive experience and make lasting change and create a real level playing field in the future.”

In the amended complaint, Flores’ attorneys wrote that on February 4, it was widely reported that the Texans had narrowed their head coach candidates to Flores, Philadelphia Eagles defense coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Josh McConne. After it was announced that Gannon, who is white, was no longer considered, the decision was up to Flores or McConne, who is also white and has no NFL coaching experience.

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The complaint states that “Texas were rightly concerned that if they hired Mr. McCown in place of Mr. Flores, it would reinforce Mr. Flores’ allegations of systematic discrimination against black candidates, particularly given that the team had just fired Blackhead coach David Cooley after just one season.” As such, later on the same day that it was announced that the Texans had narrowed their search to just two candidates, it was also announced that the team had decided to conduct a preliminary interview with coach Cooley, the defensive coordinator, Luffy Smith, for the position of head coach.”

Eventually, Texas hired Smith, who is also black, for a job as head of coaching. The complaint commends Texas for hiring Smith, “who is more than qualified for the position,” but says it is “problematic” for Flores to be bypassed as he filed his lawsuit.

The amended complaint also expands on allegations that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered Flores $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season – his first time as head coach – in an effort to “tank” to boost the value of the Dolphins draft pick. It states that Flores sent a memo on December 4, 2019, to Managing Director Chris Greer, CEO Tom Garfinkel and Senior Vice President Football and Business Administration Brandon Shore in which he “detailed the toxicity found within the organization and explained the unreasonable reasons” for the position he was previously placed in. Team ownership and senior management.

Flores’ lawyers said the NFL had a copy of that memo.

At its annual owners meeting last month, the NFL announced a new diversity advisory committee to review league and club policies on diversity hiring. The six-member panel will provide its “expert external perspective on industry best practices, and will assess league and club diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and initiatives, including all recruitment processes, policies and procedures, with a primary focus on top-level coach and front office staff.”

“While the NFL may appoint outside advisors, make minor changes to the rules, and subjugate various interest groups, real and lasting change can only be achieved through the appointment of a court-ordered observer as the NFL has repeatedly demonstrated incapable of Douglas Wigdor and John Elvitrakis in a statement that they are restraining themselves.”