Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has launched a class action lawsuit, alleging the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".
Flores is suing the league along with teams at whose hands he alleges he has personally experienced racism, naming the Dolphins along with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".
The suit, filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, demands a jury trial. The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", saying it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores also rejected his allegations.
Flores claims he inadvertently learned he had failed to get the Giants head coach job last week, even before his interview took place.
The suit contains screen grabs of an alleged text message conversation between New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Flores, in which Belichick congratulates Flores on what he believes is an impending appointment, only to realise he was messaging the wrong person, having intended to contact Brian Daboll, who got the Giants job.
During the text exchange, Flores questioned whether Belichick had messaged the correct person, with the Patriots coach having indicated he had inside knowledge on who would land the job. According to the lawsuit's contents, Belichick at this point realised his error and apologised to Flores, who worked for him for 10 years with the Patriots.
The NFL has a 'Rooney Rule' in place. It requires all teams seeking a new head coach "to interview at least one or more diverse candidates", and the lawsuit alleges on this occasion the Giants interview was "a sham" that "humiliated" Flores.
A spokesman for the Giants, Pat Hanlon, was quoted by the New York Times on Tuesday as saying the team was "confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll", adding that Flores was "in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour".
It is also alleged in the lawsuit that Flores "was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule" by the Broncos in 2019 and was never intended to be "a legitimate candidate", while also criticising the interview board.
The Broncos have described the various claims against the franchise as "blatantly false" and "baseless and disparaging claims".
A number of allegations are made in the suit about Flores' time with the Dolphins, which came to an end only last month.
The Dolphins responded by saying they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organisation".
The class action alleges: "The NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of black head coaches, coordinators and general managers. Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organisations have been given every chance to do the right thing.
"Rules have been implemented, promises made – but nothing has changed. In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL's disingenuous commitment to social equity."
It also contains a series of allegations that it points to as evidence the NFL as a whole has a racism problem when it comes to the hiring of black individuals, alleging it is "racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation".
In response, the NFL said: "The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organisations.
"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."