Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilkes and longtime defensive assistant Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to discriminate against former Miami Dolphins coach against the NFL.
In a complaint amended Thursday and received by USA TODAY Sports, Horton claims that the Tennessee Titans interviewed him for the vacancy of head coach in 2016, despite having already promised work to interim head coach Mike Mularki. Wilkes, meanwhile, claims he was “unfairly and discriminatory fired” by the Cardinals in 2018 after just one season at the helm.
“When Coach Flores filed this lawsuit, I knew I owed it to myself, to all Black NFL coaches and future coaches to be with him,” said Wilkes, who is now the game’s defense coordinator and additional coach for the Carolina Panthers. . “This lawsuit has shed another important light on a problem we all know about, but which too few people want to face.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league declined to comment.
The amended complaint also includes new allegations that the Houston Texas and Dolphins have retaliated against Flores for more than two months since he first filed a lawsuit against the league.
The addition of two plaintiffs – and specific allegations of discrimination against three other teams – marks a significant extension of Flores ’original lawsuit, filed by attorneys Douglas Wigdor and John Eleftherakis in a New York federal court on February 1.
Flores, who was fired by the Dolphins earlier this year, argued that the NFL and its teams were involved in “systemic racial discrimination” in hiring and firing coaches from the minority.
“I am still humiliated by the outpouring of support for my claims to the NFL and congratulate Steve Wilkes and Ray Horton for tackling systemic racial discrimination,” Flores said in a statement. “Their claims are an unfortunate reality of the problems facing black coaches in the NFL, with which our collective hope in this case must end once and for all.”
Perhaps the most notable allegation in the amended amendment concerns Horton, a 24-year coaching veteran who most recently worked as a coach for Washington Commanders defenders in 2019.
According to the lawsuit, the Titans asked Horton to fly from his home in Phoenix, Nashville in a short time for an interview for the vacancy of head coach on January 16, 2016. The team previously interviewed three candidates, according to media reports: January 15th
Horton, who at the time was the defense coordinator in Tennessee, interviewed five executives at the team’s training base and then ran into Mularki as he was leaving the building, according to the lawsuit. Horton recalled that, according to the complaint, Mularka’s presence was “strange”, given that the interim coach was interviewed the day before. The Titans announced the hiring of Mularka a few hours later.
The lawsuit describes Horton’s interview as a “fake” and cites as evidence the interview that Mularki gave to the “Steelers Realm” podcast in 2020. One of the presenters asked Mularki, who is now retired, if he regrets his career.
“I allowed myself at one point, when I was in Tennessee, to get carried away with something I regret, and I still regret it,” Mularki said in a podcast. “The owners there – Amy Adams Page and her family – came and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016 before they went through Rooney’s rule. And so I sat knowing that I was the head coach in the 16th when they were going through this fake hiring process. ”
The Titans have already fulfilled their obligations under Rooney’s rule prior to Horton’s interview by meeting with Austin, who is also Black. At the time, the rule only required NFL teams to include one minority coach in their pool of candidates for head coach.
But 61-year-old Horton said in a statement that he was “devastated and humiliated” when he heard Mularki say he had already been promised the job before his own interview.
“By joining this cause, I hope to turn this experience into a positive one and make lasting changes and create real equal opportunities in the future,” he said.
The Titans denied deciding to interview Horton.
“Our search for a head coach in 2016 was an open and competitive process, during which we conducted personal interviews with four candidates and complied with all NFL rules,” the team said in a statement to ESPN on Thursday. “The organization did not decide on its next head coach during the process and made the final decision after considering all four candidates after the interview.”
The charges in the lawsuit involving Wilkes are more general.
The lawsuit seeks to contrast the treatment of the cardinals with Wilkes, who was fired after receiving 3-13 in 2018, with general manager Steve Keim, who was arrested that summer for driving while intoxicated but kept his job. It also claims that the 52-year-old Wilkes did not get the same time and opportunity to succeed in his position as white coach – for example, his successor in Arizona, Cliff Kingsbury.
“Sir. Wilkes has been discriminated against by the Arizona Cardinals in a manner consistent with the experience of many black coaches,” Wigdor and Eleftherakis wrote in the complaint. Wilkes was hired as a “bridge coach” and was not given any significant chance of success. “
On Thursday, the cardinals said: “The decisions we made after the 2018 season were very difficult. But, as we said at the time, they were completely guided by what mattered the interests of our organization and was necessary to improve the team. We are convinced that the facts reflect this and show that these allegations are not true. “
Meanwhile, part of Flores ’complaint now includes the actions of dolphins and Texans, which he claims are revenge.
Flores claims that the Dolphins were unable to pay the remainder of his contract and “tried to repay the compensation paid to him” in arbitration without going into details. In a statement Thursday, Flores said he noted in a note in December 2019 to CEO Chris Grier and two other executives about the “toxicity that existed” in the organization, including allegations that owner Stephen Ross encouraged him to go, offering 100 $ 000 each. loss. The Dolphins – like two other teams named as defendants in the original lawsuit, the Denver Broncos and New York Giants – had previously dismissed claims in Flores ’complaint.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Texans refused to hire Flores because he filed a lawsuit against the NFL that general manager Nick Caserio publicly denied. The Texans later hired Lavi Smith, who is Black.
“The search for our head coach was very thorough and inclusive,” the Texans said in a statement on Thursday. – Thanks to his previous success as a coach in the NFL, Brian Flores was one of the first candidates with whom we conducted an official interview for the position, and he remained a candidate until the very end. … In the end, we decided to hire Lowe Smith as head coach, and we think he is best suited for our team moving forward. ”
Since Flores ’initial complaint was filed, the 41-year-old has been hired as a senior defense assistant and full-time defenders coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the NFL has announced changes to the Rooney Rule, including a requirement that each team must hire a woman or coach from a minority as an assistant in attacks.
The NFL and the teams named as defendants in Flores ’lawsuit have yet to file official responses to the court. The first hearing is scheduled for April 29.