Steve Wilks, Ray Horton join Brian Flores’ lawsuit against NFL teams over alleged racism in recruitment practices

Lawyers for Brian Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who are suing the NFL for racial discrimination in their hiring practices, added two former NFL coaches in addition to a modified complaint on Thursday.

Steve Wilks, who coached the Arizona Cardinals for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, NFL assistant since 1994, who interviewed the Tennessee Titans’ head coach in 2016, are now part of the lawsuit filed against the NFL. , Dolphins, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Titans and Cardinals, as well as 26 other “John Doe” NFL teams. Titans, Cardinals and Texans were added to the color as part of the change as well.

Flores’ lawyers claim in the amended complaint that Texas residents have “avenged” Flores by taking him away from taking into account the position of their head coach “because of his decision to file this lawsuit and speak publicly about systematic discrimination in the NFL.

An amended lawsuit was filed in southern New York. It calls for greater transparency in NFL hiring, incentives to hire black coaches, and increased visibility for black assistant coaches.

Lawyers say Wilks was discriminated against as a “bridge coach” who “did not give any significant chance of success. Wilks was 3-13 in one season with Arizona before he was fired and Kliff Kingsbury replaced.” Lawyers wrote that on while Kingsbury has been successful, “Mr. Wilks, with the same opportunity that Mr Kingsbury gave, would certainly have succeeded. “

“When Coach Flores filed this lawsuit, I knew I owed myself, and all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand by him,” Wilks said in a statement released by his lawyers. “This lawsuit has shed further light on a problem that we all know exists, but which too few are willing to deal with. Black coaches and applicants should have exactly the same ability to stay, and stay,” “That’s not the case right now, and I’m looking forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to make sure that the desire for racial equality in the NFL comes true.”

Wilks returned to the NFL this year as a passing game manager and assistant coach for the Carolina Panthers after serving one season as the University of Missouri’s defense manager.

Horton was the Titans’ defense manager from 2014-15 and interviewed the team’s head coach. Lawyers said the interview was a “completely sham interview done solely to comply with the Rooney rule and to demonstrate equal opportunities and a false will to consider a minority candidate for the position. The Titans hired Mike Mularkey, a white man, and Horton went on to become Cleveland’s defender. He has since resigned.

Mularkey, who had been the club’s interim coach for the last nine games of the 2015 season, said in a 2020 broadcast that the Titans’ owners had told him he was going to get the job before they had completed the interview process, including interviews with two. minority candidates.

Mularkey’s comments, part of an extensive interview with the “Steelers Realm” broadcaster, were a response to a question about his regret during his career. The allegations have taken on new significance since Flores filed a lawsuit in February, claiming he was discriminated against in interviews because of vacancies.

“I have always been proud to do the right thing in this business and I can not say that it is true of everyone in this business,” Mularkey said on the radio. “It’s a very depressing business and a lot of guys will tell you that. Strunk and her family came in and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016 before they went through the Rooney Rule, and then I sat there and knew I was the head coach ’16 when they went through this fake hiring process. know many of the coaches they were interviewing, know how much they had gone through these interviews, know all that they could do and they had no chance of getting that job.In fact, GM, Jon Robinson, he was in the interview with me. he had no idea why he was interviewing me – that I had the job already. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did. That was not the way to go. . “

ESPN became aware of the interview, which was not widely circulated at the time, as part of a report on Flores’ lawsuit and reached out to Mularkey for comment before submitting an amended case. Mularkey was fired by the Titans in 2017 after going 9-7 between seasons and losing to the New England Patriots in the League Cup in the finals.

“I believe you have the truth and what you need,” Mularkey told ESPN in an email. “I do not want to comment further.”

The Titans, in a statement to ESPN issued before the lawsuit was filed, objected to Mularkey’s recollection of what happened during the interview process, but did not make Adam Strunk or other executives available to comment.

“Our 2016 coach game was an open and competitive process where we conducted personal interviews with four candidates and followed all NFL rules,” the statement said. “The association was undecided on the next head coach during the process and made its final decision after examining all four candidates following the interviews.”

Two candidates from a minority group that made it to the Titans’ 2016 job, Teryl Austin and Horton, did not respond to repeated ESPN interview requests before the lawsuit was filed. Austin is currently the pitcher for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he works on the same staff as Flores. Flores, who was fired in January after three seasons with the Dolphins, was hired in February by head coach Mike Tomlin to be the defensive and defensive coach.

When ESPN contacted the NFL before the lawsuit was filed, it said it did not know about Mularkey’s comments before being asked about them.

“I’ve done a lot of internal research and it never reached the NFL,” said Brian McCarthy, vice president of NFL communications. “We were not aware of this as a problem.”

“I’m proud to stand with Coach Flores and Coach Wilks in the fight against systematic discrimination that has plagued the NFL for far too long,” Horton said in a statement released by his lawyers. “When I heard about Coach Mularkey’s statements that my head coach interview with the Titans was a sham, I was devastated and humiliated. By participating in this case, I hope to turn that experience into a positive one and make lasting changes and create real equal opportunities in the future. “

In the amended complaint, Flores ‘lawyers write that on February 4, it was reported that the Texas people had reduced their candidates for head coach to Flores, Jonathan Gannon, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense director, and Josh McCown. After it was announced that Gannon, who is white, was no longer under review, the decision was under Flores or McCown, who is also white and has no NFL coaching experience.

The complaint states that “The Texans were rightly concerned that if it ruled Mr McCown over Flores, it would strengthen Mr Flores’ allegations of systematic discrimination against black candidates, especially given that the team had just fired David Culley, Black’s head coach. after only one period. As such, later that day, when it was announced that the Texans had narrowed their search to just two candidates, it was also announced that the team had decided to give the first interview to Culley’s own coach. “Defender Lovie Smith is in charge of the position.”

The Texans eventually hired Smith, who is also black, as head coach. The complaint applauds the people of Texas for hiring Smith, who is “more than qualified for the role,” but says it is “difficult” that Flores was fired because he sued.

The amended complaint also expands allegations that Dolphins ‘owner Stephen Ross offered Flores $ 100,000 for each loss during the 2019 season – his first as head coach – in an attempt to “refuel” to bolster Dolphins’ options. It states that Flores sent a memorandum on December 4, 2019 to CEO Chris Grier, CEO Tom Garfinkel and Vice President of Football and Business Management Brandon Shore in which he “explained the toxicity that existed within the organization and explained the unfairness. a position he was placed in by the team’s ownership and management. “

Flores’ lawyers said the NFL had a copy of the memo.

At its annual owners’ meeting last month, the NFL announced a new diversity advisory committee to review the policies of clubs and clubs on a variety of recruitments. The six-member committee “will provide its specialist with an external perspective on the industry’s best practices and will assess the diversity of departments and clubs, policies and initiatives on equality and participation, including all recruitment processes, policies and procedures, with a focus on senior coaching. and staffing levels in the office. “

“While the NFL may hire outside advisers, make minor rule changes and nurture various interest groups, real and lasting change can only be achieved by appointing a court inspector as the NFL has repeatedly shown that it is impossible. . of law enforcement itself, “said lawyers Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis in a statement.

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