Brian Flores Is Motivated By Moral Attitude, Friends Say

During his first pre-season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, in 2019, Brian Flores speak with emotion about social injustice he faces the role of a young black and Latino in Brooklyn’s harrowing Brownsville segment.

Referring to athletes like Kenny Stills, then Dolphins recipient, and ostracized quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Flores said he welcomes those who oppose racial inequality and police brutality.

“They are paying attention to my story,” Flores, the son of Honduran immigrants, told reporters. “I am the son of immigrants. I am black. I grew up in poverty. I grew up in New York in the stop-and-go era. I was stopped because I matched a previous description. So all these guys protested, I lived, I went through”.

Shot by the Dolphins last month, despite posting winning records in two of his three seasons as head coach, and then going through what he describes as an interview ” fake” with the Giant, Flores now considers himself stopped – or at least detoured – but again because he fits a certain description.

On Tuesday, Flores, who will turn 41 this month, filed a proposed class action, accused the NFL of systematic racism in discriminating against him and other Black coaches in its recruiting practices. In a 32-team league in which about 70% of the players are black, only one current head coach – Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers – is black.

Nine teams have recruited head coaches in this year’s recruiting cycle, and of the six teams that have hired or have decided on one, the job goes to a white man.

“We run the risk of having more African-Americans on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Harry Edwards, a prominent sociologist and activist who is a longtime consultant for the San Francisco 49ers. than head coaches in the NFL. That’s outrageous.”

Flores’ attorneys did not allow him to be interviewed. He has said in numerous television appearances that real change will not come from policy decrees but only through changing the “hearts and minds” of the NFL’s main team owners. Only two people are not white – Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a Pakistani-American, and Kim Pegula of Buffalo, a Korean-American who owns the Bills with her husband, Terry.

Several people who have known Flores for years, including Dino Mangiero, his high school coach at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, say he has long had a wrought sense of moral purpose. Mangiero described Flores as “as serious as a heart attack” and “a man of principle, if he feels something is wrong, he won’t defend it.”

Mangiero, 63, who has played six seasons in the NFL and recently signed with high school coach Archbishop McCarthy in Southwest Ranches, Fla., said: “I think all he’s looking for is a hit sincere shot.” ​​I am very proud of him. He is standing up for what he believes in. That takes a lot of courage. His career is on the rise, no doubt.”

As Flores looked down into an uncertain future, the friends he had kept from his days at Poly Prep rallied around him. Clifton Coker, who, like Flores, attended a private school through a student-athlete scholarship program, said Flores relies on mentors and tries to do the right thing to get there. your career goals. “For something to go wrong, and in the direction he’s been taught to believe, that’s what frustrates you,” Coker said.

After graduating from Boston University, where a foot injury ended any slim hopes of playing in the NFL as a safe-back or quarterback, Flores joined the staff of the New England Patriots in 2004. He started as an assistant scout, transporting players to and from the airport. , picked up dry cleaning, slept on an air mattress in a friend’s loft.

But even then, Scott Pioli, New England’s vice president of player personnel at the time, saw Flores’ in-charge nature. Before the Super Bowl in 2019, Pioli, who was leaving New England at the time, said he often jokingly referred to Flores as “the league leader” and “Jimmy Hoffa.” If any of the recruiting assistants had problems or questions, Flores would talk to Pioli.

Nate Solder, who won two New England Super Bowls as an offensive player and who played most recently for the Giants, recalled in an interview Flores’ sense of fairness. On one occasion, Solder said, Flores ranked the Patriots veteran forward in practice by putting his foot on the ball and breaking down offensive behavior quickly so he could establish the scouts’ defense. .

“I would skip the language but it was intense,” Solder said. “It was like, ‘I’m going to fight you over this. I do not care. I will do this right. ‘”

During a training camp rehearsal in 2019, Flores famously played eight songs in a row by Brooklyn-born Jay-Z after Stills. criticizing rappers for being tone deaf when he entered into an entertainment and social justice partnership with the NFL Jay-Z said the league had “passed on its knees” for the song, which angered Stills, who took a knee in protest. to racial inequality.

Flores has received some criticism, including from the editorial page of The Miami Heraldlikened his choice of music to “a smug mockery, putting his hands on a real-life American plague” of police brutality.

Flores is unapologetic, saying he is challenging Stills to not let the outside world affect his performance. Flores said in 2019, just before his mother, Maria, died of breast cancer, was imbued with her steadfast values. Maria Flores raised five sons while the patriarch of the family, Raul Sr., was away for months as a maritime merchant.

Education is the most important. Four of Flores’ siblings, including Brian, have master’s degrees. His mother, he said, never seemed to flinch, even when she and her children had to walk 20 flights of stairs, sometimes carrying groceries, when the elevator broke down at her Glenmore Plaza property in Brownsville. .

“She impacted me in a very positive way in terms of how she treated people and how to lead with honor and integrity and always do things the right way,” Flores said.

He spent 15 seasons on the Patriots’ payroll, becoming a defensive player and part of four Super Bowl-winning teams. Then, at the age of 37, he was hired by the Dolphins, becoming one of three Black team head coaches at the time. Since the so-called Rooney Rule was enacted in 2003 to promote more inclusive hiring, 27 of the 127 existing head coach jobs in the NFL, or about 21%, have been filled by people of color, according to Related press.

By the age of 40, Flores was fired. Stephen Ross, team owner, says, “an organization can only function if it works together and works well together.” Flores is said to have a strained relationship with Chris Grier, general manager of the Dolphins, and Tua Tagovailoa, the team’s starting midfielder. Not every player likes his intense coaching style.

In television interviews since being fired, Flores has spoken of feeling betrayed, using words like humiliation, distrust, hurt, anger. The classic immigrant reassurance his mother had given him – work hard and the opportunity would come – was, in his view, skewed.

Ross pressured him to boost the 2019 season for a better first-round draft pick, offering him $100,000 per defeat, an offer he turned down, Flores said in its petition. And he cited text messages he said were sent by his former boss, New England Coach Bill Belichick on January 24. In the message, Belichick appeared to congratulate Flores on being hired. as a Giants coach, a job he didn’t have yet. January 27 interview for. The messages appear to indicate that Belichick intended to correspond with another Brian – Brian Daboll, who was white and employed by the Giants.

Ross called Flores’ allegations “false, malicious and defamatory.” The Giants said on Thursday they had “concrete and objective evidence” that their decision to coach was not made until the day after Flores gave the interview, and his claims were ” disturbing and simply untrue.” But several other former black coaches in the NFL, Hue Jackson and Marvin Lewis, spoke of Flores’ familiar despair. And Solder, who was white, was among the players tweeted support Flores.

“I have no doubt that what he describes is completely accurate,” Solder said in an interview.

Legal experts say Flores’ case will have little chance of winning unless he can prove that race was a factor in being denied a job.

Edwards, the sociologist, said it seems likely that Flores will face the same resistance that Curt Flood, who runs the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost his legal challenge in the 1970s to overturn Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, which binds players to one team for their entire careers. Free agency has finally arrived, but at a professional and personal expenses for flooding.

And now Flores faces the risk of not being able to coach anymore.

“We are so mired in racism and the tradition of exclusion and martyrdom that we turn those who oppose it, that we say it is an expected price to pay,” Edwards said. stand up.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, describes Flores as the “coach equivalent of Kaepernick,” saying he could not see Flores being offered another coach in the course. short time, maybe ever. .

However, Lapchick added in a more hopeful tone, the increased athlete activity in the racial reckoning after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd could turn attention to the recruiting practice of George Floyd. college and professional teams.

“It’s not that they’re asking them to hire a black coach,” Lapchick said, “but they’re opening up the process to make sure there’s a fair process, often ending up with more diverse applicants and more options. choose more variety.”

Sheelagh McNeill research contributions. Brian Flores Is Motivated By Moral Attitude, Friends Say

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