NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a league-wide memo Saturday in response to the lawsuit filed by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores that alleged the league has racist hiring practices.
Flores’ lawsuit — which stated that the league “remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers” — also accused the NFL of being “racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” noting how even though 70 percent of the league’s players are black, there is currently only one black head coach.
In his letter to the NFL’s CEOs and club presidents, Goodell said he wanted “to address a subject that many of us have discussed together, not only this week, but consistently over for many years.”
“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values,” Goodell wrote. “We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable. We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just sent this memo to clubs, saying the league is retaining outside experts to help reevaluate its DEI policies and matters regarding integrity of the game will be “reviewed thoroughly and independently” in light of allegations from Brian Flores. pic.twitter.com/VUK2dm0MMe
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 5, 2022
While the NFL previously dismissed Flores’ lawsuit as “without merit,” the commissioner admitted Saturday, “We understand the concerns expressed by Coach Flores and others this week. While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
As for Flores’ claim that he was offered financial compensation to lose games with the Dolphins (thus improving the team’s draft pick), Goodell said the league would “thoroughly and independently” investigate any issue relating to the “integrity of NFL games.”
“There is much work to do,” Goodell’s letter concluded, “and we will embrace this moment and seize the opportunity to become a stronger, more inclusive league.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone following Goodell’s memo, Flores’ lawyers Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said, “Unfortunately, immediately after Coach Flores filed the class action lawsuit, the NFL and various teams reflexively, and without any investigation, denied the detailed allegations set forth in the 60 page complaint. As a result, when we spoke to the national media the following day we made clear that the NFL should view this class action lawsuit as an opportunity to engage in real change and confront the obvious reality. The statement made today by the Commissioner is, on the surface, a positive first step, but we suspect that this is more of a public relations ploy than real commitment to change. For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, as well as law firms and experts that purport to be unbiased and independent, but are paid for by the NFL. All the while, systemic racial bias has festered in the NFL’s front offices.”
Flores’ lawyers continued, “The NFL is now rolling out the same playbook yet again and that is precisely why this lawsuit was filed. We would be pleased to talk to the Commissioner about real change, but unfortunately he has not reached out to us to engage in such a discussion. In fact, nobody from the NFL has reached out to us. Absent such a discussion followed by unbiased and concrete change, we believe that a court or governmental agency must order a federal monitor to oversee the NFL as the NFL cannot continue to police itself.”