Court Battles

Goodell calls NFL’s lack of diversity ‘unacceptable’

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league’s lack of diversity is “unacceptable” after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the league over allegations of widespread racism.

“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values,” Goodell said in a memo to all clubs provided to The Hill, noting that the league’s efforts to promote diversity with respect to head coaches have not gone far enough.

“We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable,” Goodell said.

“We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusions,” he added, noting that the league will bring in outside experts to help review and examine its policies, guidelines and initiatives pertaining to diversity, equity, inclusion and gender.

Flores in last week’s lawsuit accused the league of racism, while also alleging that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 per loss in the 2019 season so the team could have a stronger chance of securing a top draft pick.

Flores also called his 2019 meeting with the Denver Broncos a “sham interview,” claiming that top officials with the team arrived at the meeting an hour late.

Additionally, his lawsuit includes text messages from New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, in which the coach congratulated Flores for securing a head coaching job with the New York Giants — a position he had yet to interview for. Belichick later said he meant to text Buffalo Bill assistant coach Brian Daboli.

Ross and the Giants have all denied the allegations, and John Elway, the Broncos’ president of football operations,  called the accusations “false and defamatory.”

Goodell, in the memo Saturday morning titled “Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” said the league “understand[s] the concerns expressed” by Flores and others in the past week.

“While the legal process moves forward, we will not wait to reassess and modify our strategies to ensure that they are consistent with our values and longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Goodell said.

“In particular, we recognize the need to understand the lived experiences of diverse members of the NFL family to ensure that everyone has access to opportunity and is treated with respect and dignity,” he added.

The commissioner also said the league “take[s] seriously” any matters relating to the integrity of games, and will be reviewing such issues “thoroughly and independently.”

“There is much work to do, and we will embrace this moment and seize the opportunity to become a stronger, more inclusive league,” Goodell said.

A pair of attorneys representing Flores issued a statement on Saturday, however, suggesting that Goodell’s memo was “more of a public relations ploy than real commitment to change.”

“The statement made today by the Commissioner is, on the surface, a positive first step, but we suspect that this is more of a public relations ploy than real commitment to change,” lawyers Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said, according to ESPN.

“For too many years, the NFL has hidden behind the cover of foundations that were supposed to protect the rights of Black players and coaches, as well as law firms and experts that purport to be unbiased and independent, but are paid for by the NFL. All the while, systemic racial bias has festered in the NFL’s front offices,” they added.

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