I FOUGHT THE LEAGUE AND THE LEAGUE WON? Brian Flores, Colin Kaepernick, Race & the NFL

Michael Carlson
14 min readFeb 22, 2022

For many people, the Super Bowl halftime show is the highlight of the evening, and this year’s extravaganza was significant beyond just its being a demonstration of vintage hip-hop and rap which both pleased the core adult audience with nostalgia, while also presenting, in effect, a safe show for those who didn’t know or thought they didn’t like that music. The real significance may have been that the show was put together by Jay-Z and his company Roc Nation as the biggest, and many might say first, major benefit from his 2019 partnership with the NFL, designed to, in the league’s words “enhance the NFL’s live game experience and amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”

It will be those latter efforts which come under examination in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Brian Flores. Flores was fired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins on January 11, the day after the end of the regular season and called “Black Monday”with no irony intended; his sacking sent shock waves around the league. Flores, who’s only 40, was seen as one of the NFL’s brightest young coaches, one of the few former Bill Belichick assistants with the Patriots to have seemingly installed a winning culture away from New England. His teams also went 4–2 against Belichick’s in those three seasons. Although Flores’ overall record was 24–25, in his first season he went 5–11 with a team many observers predicted would finish bottom of the NFL, and thus get the first overall pick in the draft, which at that point was supposed to be Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In fact there was popular opinion in Miami that the team should not try too hard to win, in order to ensure that first pick, a so-called “Tank For Tua” strategy, which became part of Flores’ lawsuit.

Ironically, despite the five wins, Miami wound up with Tua anyway. Tagovailoa fell to the draft’s fifth pick, as Joe Burrow, last seen for the Bengals in the Super Bowl, went first overall. Miami duly grabbed Tua ahead of Justin Herbert, who then went to the Chargers.

Flores’ suit was filed on February 1, against the NFL and three teams: Miami, New York Giants and Denver Broncos, alleging racial discrimination in his firing and in the league’s hiring processes, going back to 2019 before Miami signed him. Specifically it targeted the league’s “Rooney Rule” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and general manager positions. The rule, named after…

Michael Carlson

Yank doing life w/out parole as UK broadcaster & writer. @carlsonsports. Covers arts, books, film, music, politics & uh, sports. Accept no substitutes