Brian Flores discrimination lawsuit: What Steve Wilks, Ray Horton allege as new plaintiffs against NFL hiring practices

Longtime defensive coordinators Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores' discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.

Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the NFL has been amended. The amended lawsuit, filed by Wigdor Law, adds two new plaintiffs: former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks, now with the Carolina Panthers, and veteran NFL assistant coach Ray Horton.

Steve Wilks, Ray Horton join Brian Flores’ lawsuit against NFL

The lawsuit also added the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans to the lawsuit along with the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos.

The amended complaints allege that Wilks “was discriminated against by the Arizona Cardinals in a manner consistent with the experiences of many Black coaches. Mr. Wilks was hired as a ‘bridge coach’ and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed. He was unfairly and discriminatorily fired after just one season. His white GM, who made poor personnel decisions and was convicted for a DUI during the offseason, was given a contract extension.

Mr. Wilks was replaced by a white coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who had no prior NFL coaching experience and was coming off of multiple losing seasons as a Head Coach at Texas Tech. Mr. Kingsbury, armed with quarterback Kyler Murray, has been given a much longer leash than Mr. Wilks and, to his credit, has succeeded. That said, Mr. Wilks, given the same opportunity afforded to Mr. Kingsbury, surely would have succeeded as well. The allegations pertaining specifically to Mr. Wilks are located at ¶¶ 227-263 of the amended complaint.”

Wilks said, in a statement: “When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself, and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him. This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality.”

Horton alleges he received a “sham” interview

In regards to Horton, the lawsuit alleges that he received a sham interview for the Tennessee Titans’ head coaching vacancy in 2016.

The job ultimately went to Mike Mularkey.

And the statement from Wigdor Law said, “Mr. Mularkey admitted in a podcast interview that the Titans, “[T]old me I was going to be the head coach in 2016, before they went through the Rooney rule. And so I sat there knowing I was the head coach in 2016, as they went through this fake hiring process knowing, knowing a lot of the coaches that they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they could do and they had no chance to get that job.”

Mularkey’s remarks can be found here at the 25:02 mark.

I am proud to stand with Coach Flores and Coach Wilks in combatting the systemic discrimination which has plagued the NFL for far too long,” Horton said in a statement. “When I learned from Coach Mularkey’s statements that my head coach interview with the Titans was a sham, I was devastated and humiliated. By joining this case, I am hoping to turn that experience into a positive and make lasting change and create true equal opportunity in the future.”

Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and John Elefterakis also issued a statement:

“It is an honor to represent three admired and successful coaches who, by becoming named plaintiffs in this race class action, have demonstrated great courage to stand up against the NFL. While the NFL may hire outside consultants, make minor rule changes, and pander to various interest groups, real and enduring change can only be accomplished through the appointment of a court ordered monitor as the NFL has demonstrated time and time again that it is incapable of policing itself.”

Brian Flores makes new allegations in the amended complaints

Flores alleged in the amended complaint that he didn’t get the Texans’ job that went to Lovie Smith, who is also Black, because he filed his lawsuit, alleging retaliatory.

“The Texans retaliated against Mr. Flores by removing him for consideration for its Head Coach vacancy due to his decision to file this action and speak publicly about systemic discrimination in the NFL,” the lawsuit stated. “The Texans were rightfully concerned that if it hired Mr. McCown over Mr. Flores, it would bolster Mr. Flores’ allegations of systemic discrimination against Black candidates, particularly given that the team had just fired Black Head Coach David Culley after only one season.”

Smith was hired after the Texans interviewed Flores and Josh McCown.

“Either the Texans made this retaliatory decision on its own or the NFL — through the Commissioner’s office and/or other member teams and/or surrogates from the NFL or its member teams — pressured the Texans not to hire Mr. Flores to be its Head Coach after he filed this lawsuit, or some combination thereof,” the lawsuit stated.

The Texans have issued a statement refuting Flores’ claim:

“The search for our head coach was very thorough and inclusive. Due to his previous success as a coach in the NFL, Brian Flores was among the first candidate we held a formal interview with for the position and he remained a candidate until the very end. We have a lot of respect for Brian both personally and professionally; he has been a competitive coach in the league for a number of years and his resume speaks for itself. We enjoyed our multiple conversations with Brian regarding his vision for our organization, which included an in-person meeting with the McNair family and General Manager Nick Caserio. In the end, we made the decision to hire Lovie Smith as our head coach and we believe he is the best fit for our team moving forward. It was a very fluid process that allowed us to spend time with a number of quality candidates. We are proud of our decision and will vigorously defend our process.”

Flores issued a new statement, that read: “I continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support in connection with my claims against the NFL and applaud Steve Wilks and Ray Horton for standing up against systemic race discrimination,” Flores said. “Their claims are the unfortunate reality of the problems facing Black coaches in the NFL which our collective hope in this case is to end once and for all.”

Flores’ attorneys want the NFL to have his civil lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and bribes for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross be heard in the federal court system, not in closed arbitration hearings.

The class-action lawsuit is pending in federal court

The class-action lawsuit is pending in federal court. The Dolphins recently filed a letter with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking to have Flores’ claims against Miami heard in arbitration. The law firm has replied in a letter to Goodell:

“We, along with Elefterakis, Elefterakis and Panek, represent Brian Flores. We write in response to the letters submitted by the Miami Dolphins, Ltd. (“Miami” or the “Dolphins”) on February 17 and 18, 2022 (the “Letters”). Together, the Letters request that you compel arbitration of all disputes between Mr. Flores and the Dolphins, including the claims of race discrimination and other wrongdoing alleged against the Dolphins in Flores v. The National Football League, et al., Civil Action No: 1:22 Civ. 00871(VEC) (the “Federal Action”).

“For the reasons outlined herein, we request that you reject Miami’s request to arbitrate its disputes with Mr. Flores because arbitration — which is conducted behind closed doors and outside the public eye — is contrary to all notions of transparency, accountability and fundamental fairness. If the National Football League (“NFL” or the “League”) is truly committed to racial justice and equality, it will not attempt to force Mr. Flores’ claims into arbitration.1 As you know, Mr. Flores recently filed the Federal Action, in which he alleges systemic race discrimination in the NFL with respect to the hiring, treatment, retention and termination of Black executives, Head Coaches, and Coordinators.

“Miami, one of the Defendants in the Federal Action, is alleged to have engaged in race discrimination in connection with its treatment and termination of Mr. Flores. In addition, the owner of the Dolphins, Stephen Ross, unsuccessfully attempted to bribe Mr. Flores to lose games and engage in tampering, all in violation of, inter alia, League rules. This obviously implicates the integrity of the game.”

The Dolphins released a statement after Flores originally made allegations against team owner Stephen Ross

“This latest assertion by Brian Flores that Steve Ross mentioned an NDA to him is categorically false,” the Dolphins said in a recent statement. “This just did not happen and we simply cannot understand why Brian continues this pattern of making unfounded statements that he knows are untrue. We are fully cooperating with the NFL investigation and look forward to all of the facts coming out which we are confident will prove that his claims are false and defamatory.”

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