In early January, the Miami Dolphins NFL football team fired head coach Brian Flores after two consecutive winning seasons. In response, Coach Flores is now suing the league and one NFL team for discrimination and bias. 

We admire Brian Flores’ courage to sue the NFL for racism in their hiring processes and are discouraged by the League’s immediate defensive response.

In their written statement, the NFL stated:

“Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spent more time. We will defend against these claims which are without merit.” 

Yet, in a league in which 70% of the players are Black and only three head coaches and one assistant coach are men of color (and only 1 of them is Black), it’s hard to understand how or why the League would suggest this is their best effort.

Like so many other hiring practices intended to foster social equity, the NFL’s application of the Rooney rule in Coach Flores’ case appears performative. If it isn’t, responding to his allegations with a unilateral denial versus curiosity or accountability doesn’t help the NFL case.  

The firing and lawsuit take place in the shadow of Colin Kapernick’s treatment and suspension for taking a knee in memory of Black lives lost to police violence. Given the League’s record and public denials, would Coach Flores have been fired if he’d been white?

We encourage white-owned businesses and white leaders to use their voices and resources to challenge the NFL and to invite a more genuine dialogue about what’s not working. We have before us a rare opportunity to take a courageous step to learn differently in order to behave differently. Let’s not rely on our black and brown colleagues to do the heavy lifting.  

Racism is a white problem. Let’s own it.