Brian Flores shook up the football world when he filed a federal class-action lawsuit against NFL teams.
Now, a pair of former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinators are joining the lawsuit.
Ray Horton (defensive coordinator in 2016) and Steve Wilks (2019) both joined Flores in his efforts this week.
Breaking: Former Cardinals’ HC Steve Wilks and former defensive coordinator Ray Horton now have joined Brian Flores’ race discrimination class action lawsuit against the NFL and various teams.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 7, 2022
News surrounding the lawsuit had sort of faded into the background until now.
Wilks has a gripe with his former team, the Arizona Cardinals, who fired him after his lone season in 2018.
Horton takes exception to a 2016 coaching interview he had with the Tennessee Titans.
Let’s dive into their complaints and see how it might impact the league.
The Rooney Rule
The Rooney Rule continues to be a point of debate and conversation.
For those who don’t know, it essentially requires teams to at least interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coach and senior football operation positions.
It doesn’t say teams have to hire them, just hold an interview. It took effect back in 2003.
This is where Horton’s grievance comes into play. Horton describes his interview process with the Titans as a “sham” that only took place so the team could fulfill Rooney Rule requirements.
Horton’s evidence for this claim comes via audio from a podcast featuring Mike Mularkey, the man the Titans ended up hiring as head coach that season.
In the podcast, Mularkey explains that he knew he had the job before the interview process had even started for other candidates.
This is big: Ray Horton alleges the #Titans conducted a sham interview with him in 2016. They hired Mike Mularkey.
Horton's proof: Mularkey did a podcast and said he was told the job is his before anyone else got an interview.
Here's the audio of Mularkey… and it's damning: pic.twitter.com/tRQsxjZVq3
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) April 7, 2022
Opponents of the Rooney Rule are quick to point out these situations.
Many feel teams hold interviews with certain ethnic-minority candidates to avoid breaking the Rooney Rule.
Ultimately, it can lead to illegitimate interview processes that were better off never even happening.
That’s the point Horton is trying to lay out here.
His statement on this matter is a profound one.
With coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joining Brian Flores in the race discrimination class action against the NFL and some of its teams, here are statements from the three of them pic.twitter.com/nmZ3GiFkfR
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 7, 2022
“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. 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”.
Wilks has questions about legitimacy as well.
He’s joined the suit after describing himself as a “bridge coach” with the Arizona Cardinals.
After going 3-13 in 2018, the Cardinals fired him.
However, Wilks believes he never received a fair opportunity to lead the team.
The complaint of Steve Wilks: pic.twitter.com/hYuatuXlhw
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 7, 2022
He mentions an incident with Cardinals GM Steve Keim.
Keim faced a five-week suspension following a DUI-arrest during the preseason.
During this time, he still negotiated contract terms with running back David Johnson and became instrumental in drafting Josh Rosen.
In his complaint, Wilks claims he wanted to select Josh Allen.
I think we all know how differently the careers of those two quarterbacks has gone.
Eventually, Arizona fired Wilks and handed Keim a contract extension, another point of contention from Wilks.
He also believes his predecessor, Kliff Kingsbury, had a “longer leash” after only winning five games in his first year at the helm.
The Cardinals refuted much of this in a statement made on Thursday.
“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 are confident that the facts reflect that and demonstrate that these allegations are untrue”.
Since Flores filed this lawsuit earlier this year, it’s been a slow burn in terms of finding a resolution.
The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Flores as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach in February.
Wilks is a defensive coach in Carolina while Horton hasn’t coached in the league since 2019.
The “evidence” that is Mularkey’s comments on the podcast could lead to action, but it’s not a guarantee.
If I had to guess, this all goes by the wayside once teams start training camp.
That’s not to say there aren’t systemic issues within the hiring process.
It’s certainly far from perfect.
However, it’s hard to get Roger Goodell and the NFL to act on these things.