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Brian Flores Asks N.F.L. to Keep Miami Dolphins Lawsuit Out of Arbitration

— March 9, 2022

An attorney for Flores said that, if the N.F.L. is committed to eradicating racism, it must allow Flores’s class action to be decided by a jury trial.

Football coach Brian Flores has asked the N.F.L. to reject the Miami Dolphins’ request to settle his proposed class action lawsuit in private arbitration rather than public court.

According to FOX News, Flores’s attorney, Douglas H. Widgor, sent a letter to N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday. In it, Widgar asked the league’s administration to turn down the Dolphins’ request and let the case be settled by trial.

“Arbitration is not transparent,” Widgor wrote. “Indeed, arbitration is by its very nature a secretive process that takes place behind closed doors and outside of the public eye. The lack of transparency in arbitration only serves to continue the status quo—which in this case, is one that you have conceded must be fairly evaluated and potentially overhauled. That cannot happen in arbitration. In addition to being secret and confidential, it is a well-accepted fact that arbitration presents a barrier to justice for victims of discrimination and other misconduct.”

As has reported before, Flores has filed a class action against the N.F.L. and several teams, including the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos.

In his lawsuit, Flores claims that he was offered sham interviews for positions that had already been filled. Flores says that the plaintiff organizations were using him—along with other Black athletics coaches—to comply with the so-called “Rooney Rule,” which requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions and senior management jobs.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, Flores maintains that the teams never intended to offer him a position: they simply wanted to show they had interviewed a Black man.

In a statement, Flores said that the Dolphins are pushing for the case to be heard in arbitration so they can avoid negative publicity.

“The claims that we filed involve important issues of systemic race discrimination and the integrity of NFL football games,” Flores said. “Unfortunately, the Dolphins and their attorneys, Quinn Emanuel and Paul Weiss, are trying to push the claims against the Dolphins into secret arbitration proceedings that lack transparency. There are currently ongoing legislative efforts to end forced arbitration for claims of race discrimination, which I fully support. I would hope that the NFL and Dolphins would also support those efforts. Commissioner Goodell now has a choice to make. Will he allow this case and future race discrimination claims to play out in a transparent and public legal process, or continue along the same unacceptable path?”

While the N.F.L. maintains that Flores’s claims are without merit, Goodell said that “all of the allegations, whether they are based on racism or discrimination or the integrity of our game, all of those to me are very disturbing.”

Writing to Goodell, Flores’s attorney said that, if the N.F.L. is truly committed to “ending racism,” it must resolve the claims in court and with a jury trial.

“We also are hopeful that, upon reading this letter and reflecting further, the Dolphins will reconsider their position and withdraw their arbitration request so that Mr. Flores’ claims of race discrimination and other unlawful conduct can be heard in a fair and transparent manner, in front of a judge and a jury of his peers,” Wigdor wrote. “If the NFL is truly committed to ‘ending racism,’ as it has repeatedly claimed, the league will reject Miami’s request for arbitration. Race discrimination cannot be eradicated behind closed doors and the integrity of the game depends on transparency.”


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