March has been dominated by the flurry of free agent moves taking place around the league, but it has also seen an important development in the ongoing lawsuit led by Brian Flores. The ex-Dolphins head coach saw mixed results in a ruling on the matter of arbitration being used to settle his claims against the league and a number of its teams.
A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Flores can pursue his racial discrimination suit against the NFL and the Broncos, Giants and Texans in open court, as detailed by Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press. The NFL had attempted to keep the matter an internal one, and handle Flores’ claims through arbitration.
That will be the route taken to determine his case against the Dolphins, however. The same is also true of co-plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, who joined the suit last April. The latter two added complaints against the Cardinals and Titans, respectively, for decisions affecting them in the past. Wilks argued in the suit that Arizona hired him in 2018 as a “bridge coach” with no long-term prospects of retaining the position. Horton has alleged that Tennessee conducted a “sham” head coaching interview with him in 2016.
Per the judge’s ruling, Wilks’ and Horton’s claims (as well as Flores’ outstanding ones against the Dolphins) will be handled through arbitration owing to their respective contractual statuses at the time the alleged malpractices took place. In a statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will “move promptly with arbitrations… and seek to dismiss the remaining claims.”
He added, however, that the NFL “recognize[s] there is more work to be done” on the matter of diversity and inclusion. The judge’s decision was based in part on her concern about the hiring practices in the league, and added that this case has shined “an unflattering spotlight” on the NFL in this regard. Flores, who drew head coaching interest from the Cardinals before being hired as defensive coordinator of the Vikings, is now clear to test most of his claims in front of a jury.
No decision has been announced regarding whether or not NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will personally oversee the arbitration cases. It is expected he will do so, although the judge also noted she will have the authority to review his findings if he does not delegate to another member of the league. With a path now cleared to have elements of this case heard in open court, it will remain a storyline to watch in the near future.