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Brian Flores, who is suing the NFL, will join the Steelers as a defensive coach

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has been hired as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wilfredo Lee
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has been hired as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brian Flores, who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams, has been named senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. "Brian's resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team."

Flores was head coach of the Miami Dolphins for three seasons starting in 2019, leading them to a 24-25 record. The Dolphins fired Flores with two years left on his contract, a surprise to many since Flores had winning records in the last two seasons. Flores was previously a longtime assistant coach for the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick.

The Steelers' Tomlin is currently the NFL's only Black head coach, after Flores and Houston Texans coach David Culley were fired last month.

As NPR has reported, Flores said in his lawsuit that the NFL is "managed much like a plantation" and that its 32 owners, none of whom is Black, profit from the labor of its players — 70% of whom are Black. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the league's other Black head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterback coaches and general managers, as well as African American candidates for those positions.

The lawsuit also charges that the NFL and its teams violated federal and state laws in New York and New Jersey.

Flores has charged that the Dolphins owner offered him $100,000 for each loss during his first season, urging him to tank the team's performance to get a better draft pick. He also said he has undergone sham interviews for coaching jobs, in which teams interviewed him only to comply with the NFL policy requiring teams to interview candidates of color for head coaching and senior operation roles.

That policy is known as the Rooney Rule, named after the late owner of the Steelers, Dan Rooney.

The NFL has hired former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to defend the league in the lawsuit.

In an interview earlier this month with NPR's The Limits with Jay Williams, Flores said he feels the lawsuit is a necessary sacrifice.

"This isn't about me. This is about something that's much bigger than me, which is a system in the NFL that, in my opinion, is broken as far as hiring practices for Black and minority coaches and minorities in general," he said.

Flores said he learned in text messages with Belichick that the Giants had already decided to hire someone else as their new coach, even before Flores had done his last interview for the position.

"Interviews that Blacks and minorities were going on, where we weren't getting a true opportunity in those interviews to showcase our abilities," said Flores. "To walk into an interview where a decision's already been made, that was the tipping point for me."

Flores' attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, said his legal fight will continue.

"We congratulate Coach Flores on his new position with the Steelers and thank Coach Tomlin and the organization for giving him this great opportunity," the attorneys said in a statement. "While Coach Flores is now focused on his new position, he will continue with his race discrimination class action so that real change can be made in the NFL."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.