Coaches join lawsuit against NFL for racism allegations

Despite the league's promotion of diversity, evidence is mounting that behind the cameras it's still an old boys' club

Coaches join lawsuit against NFL for racism allegations

The NFL now finds itself at the bottom of a dogpile, as two coaches have joined Brian Flores in his lawsuit alleging racist hiring practices by the professional football league.

Steve Wilks, pass game coordinator and secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers, and Ray Horton, former defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, are now part of the amended complaint, The Associated Press reported.

Wilks alleges he was discriminated against by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, hired as “bridge coach” who was “not given any meaningful chance to succeed.” Wilks was 3-13 in one season with Arizona before being fired and replaced by Kliff Kingsbury, ESPN reported.

Read more: NFL faces racism allegations in former head coach’s lawsuit

“When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him,” Wilks said in a statement released by his lawyers. “This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality.”

The Cardinals said in a statement that “the decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult ones. But as we said at the time, they were entirely driven by what was in the best interests of our organization and necessary for team improvement. We’re confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue.”

Horton, a defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans in 2014-15, claims he was subjected to discriminatory treatment when he interviewed for the head coaching position in January 2016.

Lawyers said he was given a “completely sham interview done only to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position.”

The Titans hired Mike Mularkey, who had been the team's interim head coach for the final nine games of the 2015 season. In a 2020 podcast interview, Mularkey said that the Titans' owners told him he was going to get the job before they'd completed the interview process, including interviewing two minority candidates.

“I am proud to stand with Coach Flores and Coach Wilks in combatting the systemic discrimination which has plagued the NFL for far too long,” Horton said in a statement released by his lawyers. “When I learned from Coach Mularkey's statements that my head coach interview with the Titans was a sham, I was devastated and humiliated. By joining this case, I am hoping to turn that experience into a positive and make lasting change and create true equal opportunity in the future.”

In a statement after the lawsuit was filed, the Titans said that “no decision was made and no decision was communicated prior to the completion of all interviews. While we are proud of our commitment to diversity, we are dedicated to continued growth as an organization to foster diversity and inclusion in our workplace and community.”

Earlier this year, Flores filed a class action complaint against the NFL for the “racial injustice” and “humiliation” he faced after an allegedly “sham interview” for a coaching job.

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