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Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ bombshell lawsuit rocked the NFL this offseason. The suit takes the league and its owners to task over the treatment and hiring practices surrounding Black and minority head coaches. 

As the war of words in the media escalates, at least one former NFL general manager, Michael Lombardi, thinks that Flores’ lawyers are misrepresenting the truth. 

The war of words between Brian Flores’ lawyers and the Miami Dolphins is escalating

The Brian Flores lawsuit (which you can read in full here) is two-pronged. On one level, with his complaint against the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, Flores is going after the hiring practices and superficial compliance with the Rooney Rule. 

Flores’ most recent employer, the Miami Dolphins, is also part of the suit. This part of the complaint addresses how Black and minority coaches are treated when they do get jobs. 

The lawsuit alleges that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered Flores $100,000 per loss to tank games and get a better draft pick and tried to force the coach to tamper with “a prominent quarterback.”

On HBO’s Real Sports (h/t The Guardian), Flores’ lawyer Doug Wigdor added to his issues with Ross by saying the owner tried to get the coach to sign a two-year non-disparagement agreement: 

To Coach Flores’ credit, he wasn’t going to sign that because… it wasn’t about the money. If it was about the money, he would have signed it. What he did instead was he filed this lawsuit so that he could help other coaches, now… and in the future.

Brian Flores’ lawyer Doug Wigdor on NDA

After the claim by Flores’ lawyer about the NDA, the Dolphins denied the allegations. In response to that denial, Wigdor Law tweeted out pictures of purported NDA language. There was also a message from Dolphins executive Brian Shore. The note from Shore says the club is “terminating payments of all non-accrued benefits and compensation” because Flores didn’t sign the team’s separation agreement. 

Michael Lombardi doesn’t buy the lawyers’ NDA claims

Michael Lombardi spent nearly 30 years in NFL front offices. He started as a scout with the San Francisco 49ers. Over the course of his career, Lombardi worked his way up to become general manager of the Cleveland Browns and a special front office assistant to Bill Belichick. 

Now a member of the NFL media, Lombardi joined the Pat McAfee Show to discuss a range of topics, including the latest developments surrounding the Brian Flores lawsuit. 

McAfee went through all the information surrounding Flores’ NDA and concluded that it seemed like pretty standard NFL contract language. Lombardi agreed: 

Pat, I had the same reaction. I think this is a little bit of misplaced chain of evidence. When Brian signed that original contract in February ’19… he signed a standard NFL coaching contract that had these NDA clauses attached to them. And that contract was signed by Brian — or else he wouldn’t have gotten paid. … That then is being portrayed as the Dolphins put a contract — an NDA — in front of him the day they fired him and said, ‘you be a good boy or else — if not, we’re not going to pay you.’ And the chain of events and the chain of custody of the evidence is completely misdated. 

Michael Lombardi on Brian Flores’ NDA

Lombardi went on to say that he supports Flores. He also says he believes the NFL needs to do a better job hiring and retaining Black and monitory coaches. His only issue is with Flores’ lawyers (in his opinion) misrepresenting and conflating a standard contract with an additional NDA. 

Longtime Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis recently weighed in on the Flores lawsuit

(L-R) General manager Michael Lombardi of the Cleveland Browns on the field prior to a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 1, 2013 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio; Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during second quarter action against the Indianapolis Colts during an NFL game on October 3, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
(L-R) Michael Lombardi, Brian Flores | Photo by: 2013 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images; Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images.

Eli Manning Makes Tone-Deaf Excuses for New York Giants After Brian Flores Lawsuit: ‘They Don’t Care Minority or Not’

Marvin Lewis was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals for 16 years, compiling a 131-122-3 record. He started in 2003, the same year the Rooney Rule went into effect. He lost his job in 2018, the same offseason the Miami Dolphins hired Brian Flores. 

Lewis recently sat down with Sports Illustrated to discuss the Flores lawsuit and the general state of Black coaches on the NFL. 

Of the lawsuit, Lewis said, “What Brian did was bring it to light for more people. What it has done [already]: No doubt, it’s brought more outside pressure to take a hard look at some things.”

He also said that he doesn’t believe having more Black owners in the NFL is the answer, as Deion Sanders recently suggested

“People keep saying that, ‘People continue to hire people that look like themselves,'” Lewis told SI. “But we’ve had some young Black GMs, and they’ve hired head coaches who don’t look like themselves—and frankly haven’t even gone into in-depth interviews with other Black coaches. And that’s disappointing.”

Lewis ends the interview by giving advice to Black NFL coaches frustrated by the current system. He said he’d tell these younger coaches, “Don’t allow the frustration to hold you back from being prepared.”

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