NFL assistant coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to arbitration, citing contracts that coaches had signed.
Flores sued the league and three teams (Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Denver Broncos) a year ago, saying the league was “rife with racism,” particularly in its hiring and promotion of Black coaches. His lawyer said after the decision that the Flores did not yet have a comment on the ruling.
He brought the lawsuit after he was fired by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. The judge noted that Flores was announced as the new defense coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings earlier this month.
The judge ruled that the claims brought by Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, two other coaches who joined the lawsuit, must go through arbitration.
The lawsuit said Wilks was discriminated against by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 when he was hired as a “bridge coach” but was given no meaningful chance to succeed, while Horton was subjected to discriminatory treatment when he was given a sham interview for the Tennessee Titans head coach position in January 2016.
In her opinion, Caproni said the case had shined “an unflattering spotlight on the employment practices of National Football League” teams.
“Although the clear majority of professional football players are Black, only a tiny percentage of coaches are Black,” she wrote.
In deciding what claims in the lawsuit must go to arbitration rather than being litigated in court, the judge cited specifics about individual contracts and whether they were properly signed.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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