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On Feb. 1, 2022, uncoincidentally the first day of Black History Month, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and its member teams regarding the hiring practices surrounding Black and minority head coaches. Three teams — the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Dolphins — were explicitly named in the suit.

Of those three teams, the allegations against the Giants might be the easiest to prove because Flores has receipts. That didn’t deter Eli Manning, though, from defending his former team.  

The New York Giants are at the center of ex-Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit

The Brian Flores lawsuit is a damning attack on the hiring practices of the NFL. The complaint alleges that the “NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers.”

While all kinds of allegations are present, Flores’ lawsuit takes specific issue with three teams.

It features serious allegations against Flores’ former employer, the Miami Dolphins, and the team’s owner, Stephen Ross. These speak to the problems around the retention and firing of Black coaches.

The allegations against the Denver Broncos and New York Giants are about interview and hiring practices, as well as compliance with the Rooney Rule.

The Denver allegations are salacious. Flores’ suit claims “the Broncos’ then-General Manager, John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview. They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had [been] drinking heavily the night before.”

If this is true, it shows that the Broncos brass didn’t take Flores’ interview seriously. It makes it look like it only happened to comply with the Rooney Rule before the hiring of Vic Fangio. From a layman’s reading, though, it seems this charge may be hard to prove as a “he said, he said” situation.

The allegations against the Giants seem like an easier sell because Flores has what looks like concrete evidence against the team. The lawsuit contains a text exchange between New England Patriots head coach (and former Giants assistant) Bill Belichick and Flores.

Belichick apparently thought he was texting Brian Daboll, the Buffalo Bills assistant who ultimately got the Giants job, to congratulate him. However, he actually texted Brian Flores, who was to interview with the Giants the next day.

The courts will ultimately have to decide whether Flores’ Giants interview was a “sham” to comply with the Rooney Rule. Still, in the court of public opinion, those texts from Belichick don’t look good at all.

You’d think this would be enough for uninvolved parties to stay out of it, but that’s not what Eli Manning thought.

Eli Manning rushed to the defense of his former team 

The New York Giants organization did release an official statement on the Brian Flores lawsuit to the media. The statement claims (h/t SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter) they are “pleased and confident” in their interview process, considered Flores “until the eleventh hour,” and felt Daboll was the “most qualified” candidate.

Additionally, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning — who is still the de facto face of the franchise two seasons removed from playing and a decade after winning the team’s last Super Bowl — added his two cents.

The former QB, who still has a role with the organization, told Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post:

I was not involved in any of that process in any way, so I don’t know the details. I know the Giants organization. I know they do everything possible to give everybody a fair chance. They don’t care minority or not, they are looking for the best possible candidate. They are going to do everything properly to look for that perfect candidate. So, I don’t think there was any wrongdoing there.

Eli Manning on the Brian Flores lawsuit

You have to love a quote that starts with “I don’t know the details” and ends with a claim that the speaker’s side did nothing wrong.

This lawsuit looks like it could be a watershed moment in NFL, sports, and maybe even U.S. history. It’s a tough look for Manning to add his opinion to the record so quickly and without (as he admitted) knowing all the facts.

A stunning number of NFL teams have never had a Black head coach, including the Giants

(L-R) Brian Flores, who was fired as the Miami Dolphins coach on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022; Eli Manning of the New York Giants announces his retirement during a press conference on January 24, 2020 at Quest Diagnostic Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(L-R) Brian Flores, Eli Manning | John McCall/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images; Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Rooney Rule started in 2003 when the NFL had just three Black head coaches. As of February 2022, there is only one Black head coach (the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin) and three total minority head coaches (the Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera and the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh).

According to USA Today, six teams have never had a full-time Black or minority head coach or general manager: the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Tennessee Titans. The study is from 2021 and includes the Atlanta Falcons, but they’ve since hired GM Terry Fontenot.

The Giants did have a Black GM, Jerry Reese, from 2007-17. It’s worth noting that this decade-long period resulted in two of the franchise’s four Super Bowl titles.

However, the organization has never had a Black head coach. And it’s not like it’s had a longtime person filling that role lately like the Patriots and Saints have. The owners of the Giants – the Tisch and Mara families — just hired their fourth head coach in the last six years in Brian Daboll.

While there are varying opinions on how to create systematic changes in the NFL to promote racial equality, there is nearly universal agreement that changes need to happen.

With his lawsuit, Brian Flores could be the instrument of change the league needs. And if that happens, people like Eli Manning, who — even if unintentionally — defend the current system, will end up looking awful.

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