If you are of the mindset that Brian Flores is an “uppity” black man who should feel lucky he ever got an NFL head coaching job, then this opinion piece is not for you.
If you are of the mindset that it’s no big deal that on the first day of National Black History month students and professors at 14 of America’s most traditionally black universities were huddled in lockdowns fearing for their lives due to a highly coordinated and synchronized series of bomb threats, then this opinion piece is not for you.
If you are of the mindset that the real headline of the day should have been Tom Brady’s retirement message on Instagram, then this opinion piece is not for you.
The truth is, as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel wrote nearly a half century ago, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.”
One such prophet was the African American poet Gwendolyn Brooks:
Boy Breaking Glass
When Brian Flores, freshly fired after leading the Miami Dolphins to two straight winning seasons and now in the midst of feeling outraged and victimized by the unjust hiring practices of the NFL, particularly as they pertain to race, decided to file a class action suit against the almighty NFL, his “broken window is a cry of art.”
Ultimately, what Brian Flores decided was that his voice is more important than his career.
Just as Colin Kaepernick decided that his taking a knee was more important than his career.
These actions are extraordinarily courageous —- and each is the ultimate “cry of art” —- yet, one of the saddest realities is that the NFL would currently be a better place with both Kaepernick and Flores in it.
In spirit, the Rooney Rule was supposed to be a road map toward racial equality among GMs and head coaches in the NFL.
The terrible irony is, almost 20 years ago, when the Rooney Rule was adopted by the NFL, there were more black head coaches than there are today.
Brian Flores has the guts to tell us what we already know —- the Rooney Rule is a sham.
Are the vast majority of the required interviews of minority GM and head coaching candidates a sham?
Of course, they are.
The New York Giants are insisting that Brian Flores was a top candidate for their head coaching job up until “the 11th hour” when it was clear that once the new GM Joe Schoen from the Bills expressed his commitment to sticking with QB Daniel Jones, the most logical coach for the job was Brian Daboll who performed wonders with QB Josh Allen.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the logic of the Giants’ hire.
But there is everything wrong about stringing black candidates along when they had zero chance of winning the job.
If Bill Belichick knew that the Giants were going to give the job to Brian Daboll, he too would have known that the Giants’ subsequent interviews with Brian Flores and Leslie Frazier were a total sham.
And here’s another thing about the recent modification to the Rooney Rule —- that teams which sign black coaches and player personnel guys and then see them get hired by other teams as head coaches and GMs get rewarded with compensatory 3rd round picks —- this too is a total sham.
The compensatory pick reward incentivizes teams to sign and develop their black employees —- not to keep them —- but to give them away.
In some way the same thing holds true with the whole compensatory pick rule in and of itself—- it incentivizes teams —- not to keep their own free agents —- but to give them away.
Think of how many NFL veteran free agents are left out in the cold by the compensatory pick rules. Teams that want to accrue as many compensatory picks as possible are incentivized to sign the fewest number of free agents as possible.
It’s no wonder why so many black head coaching candidates and players feel like they are being left out in the cold. The NFL policies are freezing cold and they are created and administered by the while commissioner and the 32 billionaire owners, none of whom is black.
What would be an amazing breakthrough it would be for a black man or a collection of black investors to purchase the Denver Broncos franchise that is currently up for sale. Then, at least one black man would have a seat at the owners’ table.
But, do you know what the projected price tag is for anyone vying to become the new owner of the Broncos?
It’s a Coors cold $4 billion.
Mina Kimes, Ryan Clark and Marcus Spears of ESPN put Brian Flores’ class action suit in clear perspective yesterday. If you didn’t hear what their reactions were, do yourself a favor and fast forward to the 16:50 mark of the show —- all three reactions come in succession, with Marcus Spears’ truth about NFL ownership being the icing on the cake:
Like Marcus Spears said, “the NFL owners have no incentive to hire black head coaches because they don’t have to answer to anybody.”
Moments later the NFL put out this reaction to Brian Flores’ class action suit:
“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.”
What a colossal joke.
The ink wasn’t even dry on the 57 page class action suit and without any formal in-depth investigation of Flores’ claims, the NFL is already stating that his claims are “without merit.”
Talk about stacking another sham on top of a sham.
The NFL good boy network, who are the major profit reapers in America’s sports industry have already rested their case before the trial has even begun.
Let’s go back to Gwendolyn Brooks’ conclusion of “Boy Breaking Glass.”
- “It was you, it was you who threw away my name!
- And this is everything I have for me.”
- Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,
- the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,
- runs. A sloppy amalgamation.
- A mistake.
- A cliff.
- A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.
The NFL will now try to tear Brian Flores’ name apart and throw it away. Apparently, Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross is describing Flores as “an angry coach.” I don’t care what the color of your skin is, if you are being asked as a first year head coach to tank games, that would and should make you furious —- not only for yourself but for your players who week in and week out are putting their jobs on the line.
Black coaches in the NFL do not have the same support systems and societal luxuries that their owners have —- and according to Gwendolyn Brooks, any person who is left out of those privileges is forced to run. And we all know what the image of an American black man running looks like these days, don’t we?
“A sloppy amalgamation” —- the melting pot.
“A mistake” —- oppression.
“A cliff” —-precarious situation.
“A hymn” —- a Negro spiritual
“A snare” —- the trap for those who run.
“An exceeding sun” —- the suffocating, sweltering heat of racism and hate as symbolized by cotton fields in the summer.
The metaphor that Brian Flores uses to describe NFL ownership and their methods of business operations is “plantation.”
Some will argue that because pro football coaches and players make good money, they are hardly being treated like slaves.
But, money can’t buy fairness or an equal playing field. In fact, money (greed) is often the reason why the playing field isn’t equal or fair. And as The Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy me love.”
American racial disparities are why Gwendolyn Brooks wrote, “each one other is having different weather.”
And think of how the American broadcasters and media are feeding the NFL owners’ modus operandi —- as often as the broadcasters use the term “brain trust” which coaches do the cameras point to?
And that is the ultimate sham.
I will tell you this —- no head coach had a better game plan versus the Cardinals in 2020 than Brian Flores. His defense took away Kyler’s running options and Xavien Howard bullied up on DeAndre Hopkins, effectively taking away the Cardinals most dangerous threats. Then his defense stopped almost every third and one —- that last one of which led to the fateful missed field goal that could have won the game for the Cardinals.
It was only Tua’s second start —- and if you go back and watch everything that Brian Flores did in that game, from his astute, superbly-studied game plan, to his exemplary use of timeouts in managing the game and the clock —- not only was Flores brilliant —- his plan served as a blueprint that other coaches could use to their advantage —- which Bill Belichick, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay were more than happy to avail.
Brian Flores also had brilliant game plans for the Rams and 49ers, beating them by a combined score of 71-34. He did something that Cardinals fans have not seen versus the Rams —- he took away their bread and butter plays and forced Jared Goff to try to beat them under pressure from the pocket.
As a fellow Boston College grad, I am extremely fond of Brian Flores. I believe that he epitomizes the college’s “ever to excel” motto.
As a white American, I can only imagine the frustration and angst that Brian Flores and black head coaching candidates feel.
But, I am not without experience when it comes to dealing with blatant racism. At a prestigious prep school, in the midst of coaching my Varsity basketball team to a league championship, a 21-2 regular season record and the #3 berth in the eight team New England Class C Championship Tournament, I was summoned to the headmaster’s office where he ordered me not to play all five of our black players on the floor at the same time —- because, as he put it, it was “bad PR for the school.”
I therefore had a choice. I could either collude with that message, or never work for that school again. I chose the latter. From that point on, whenever I applied for another teaching and coaching job, all that the headmaster would say to the high school principals who called him for recommendations was, “he worked for the school for five years.”
“What kind of a teacher and coach is Walter?”
“He worked for the school for five years.”
I imagine that for NFL owners and GMs calling Stephen Ross of the Dolphins about Brian Flores, it’s much worse that that.
Fortunately for me, I found a principal who decided to give me another chance. And, thank the good Lord, it allowed me to have the best, happiest 21 years of my career.
I wish that Brian Flores will find his happiest niche, wherever that may be, wherever that may be possible.
Without question, Brian Flores has the far harder row to hoe than I ever had.
Black Someday Part II: