By Ben Warwick

DENVER (CBS4) – A former NFL head coach has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the league and several specific teams including the Denver Broncos. Brian Flores’ claims include alleged racism practices in the hiring process.

Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on against the Baltimore Ravensat Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2021.

Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2021. (credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

In the lawsuit, Flores claims that a 2019 interview with the Denver Broncos was a “sham interview” held only in an effort to comply with an NFL rule called the “Rooney Rule” that states teams must interview at least one Black candidate for any head coaching vacancy.

John Elway and Joe Ellis

John Elway and Joe Ellis (credit: CBS)

“Indeed, in 2019 Mr. Flores was scheduled to interview with the Denver Broncos. However, the Broncos’ then-General Manager, John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview,” the lawsuit states. “They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before. It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos.”

Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway and president/CEO Joe Ellis stand on the field in January 1, 2017.

Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway and president/CEO Joe Ellis stand on the field in January 1, 2017. (credit: John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Flores included private texts between him and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, which Flores uses as evidence. Flores alleges that Belichick texted him congratulating him on getting the head coaching job with the New York Giants, mistakenly thinking he was texting Brian Daboll, who was actually named as coach, three days before Flores’ interview.

Flores was fired by the Dolphins after the 2021 season. The team barely missed out on the playoffs. They were the first team in NFL history to win seven straight games after losing seven straight games.

The NFL released the following statement regarding the matter on Tuesday afternoon:

“The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”

Soon after, the Denver Broncos responded with this statement:

“The allegations from Brian Flores directed toward the Denver Broncos in today’s court filing are blatantly false.

Our interview with Mr. Flores regarding our head coaching position began promptly at the scheduled time of 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2019, in a Providence, R.I., hotel. There were five Broncos executives present for the interview, which lasted approximately three-and-a-half hours—the fully allotted time—and concluded shortly before 11 a.m.

Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate.

Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position. The Broncos will vigorously defend the integrity and values of our organization—and its employees—from such baseless and disparaging claims.”

UPDATE: Brian Flores Says He Won’t Drop Lawsuit vs. Broncos And Other Teams Even If Hired As Coach

Ben Warwick