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Jay Williams of 'The Limits' talks about Brian Flores' lawsuit against the NFL

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to hear now from the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He's sued the NFL and its teams for alleged discrimination against him and other Black coaches. Coach Brian Flores hasn't said much publicly since making the allegations, but today, he told our colleague Jay Williams he hopes the suit leads to progress.

BRIAN FLORES: If I'm - if I never coach again but there's significant change, it'll be worth it. It'll be worth it.

SHAPIRO: Jay Williams hosts NPR's new podcast, The Limits. Thanks for joining us.

JAY WILLIAMS, BYLINE: Thanks, Ari. Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: First, tell us a bit about Brian Flores. What's his coaching record, and why were people so upset about him being fired last month?

WILLIAMS: So Brian Flores started as an assistant coach in the year 2008 with Bill Belichick. You might know Bill Belichick, probably the most famous and some would consider the greatest coach to ever coach the game of football - has won six Super Bowls with Tom Brady. And Brian Flores was there to be a part of four of those.

He then went on to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. His record in his tenure there was 24-25, but he's finished the last two seasons with winning records. When you talk about a man who has character, when you talk about a man who is stern in his approach and has a standard of excellence, that's who Brian Flores is.

SHAPIRO: With that kind of record, what did he tell you about why he thinks he got fired?

WILLIAMS: So Brian Flores is accusing Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, with trying to bribe him with $100,000 per game that his team would lose - essentially asking Brian Flores, who is a competitor, to tank. This violates the integrity rules of the NFL. So Brian is saying that he chose not to do that, and that ultimately led to him being fired from the Miami Dolphins.

SHAPIRO: This is an explosive accusation. Let's listen to part of your conversation with him here.

FLORES: To disrespect the game, you know, that's done so much for me was - that was a tough conversation. I would never take part in anything like that. And I think if you heard my story, if you understood where I came from, understood the things that I - the work that was put in to get into that position, you would understand why that would - I would react the way I did.

SHAPIRO: What did he tell you about how difficult a decision it was for him to file this lawsuit, especially given his love of football?

WILLIAMS: I think this decision, for him to jeopardize his career as a head coach in the NFL, was incredibly challenging and difficult. And he very much struggled with it. This is the first discrimination lawsuit in the history of the NFL - the first. And here's what Brian Flores had to said (ph) about how difficult the decision was.

FLORES: I knew that it was, you know, a sacrifice that I was making. But I also felt like it was necessary. And this isn't about me. This is about, you know, something that's much bigger than me, which is a system in the NFL that, in my opinion, is broken as far as hiring practices for Black and minority coaches.

SHAPIRO: This case includes a lot of revelatory allegations, including a text exchange that Flores says he had with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. What does Flores allege went on here?

WILLIAMS: As part of his class-action lawsuit, it is against three teams - the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants. The Buffalo Bills also have their offensive coordinator, a guy named Brian Daboll, who the Giants were also interviewing for the head coaching position after Joe Judge, their original coach, got fired.

Bill Belichick sent Brian Flores a text, essentially thinking that Brian Flores was Brian Daboll, congratulating him on becoming the next head coach of the New England Giants (ph). Brian Flores is reacting to this text in real time, trying to understand - maybe Bill Belichick, you know, says that he thinks that he actually has the job when that's not the case at all. And ultimately, Brian Flores didn't even get a chance to interview yet.

SHAPIRO: We should say that the Miami Dolphins denies these allegations. The owner, Stephen Ross, released a statement saying, I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory. When you asked Flores about that statement, what was his reaction?

WILLIAMS: So Brian said that the rest will take care of itself. I specifically asked him if any assistant coach or other coach could corroborate his story, and his exact reply to me was, yes, a multitude of people can corroborate my story.

SHAPIRO: I've got to ask. You were a pro basketball player. You have covered pro sports, including the NFL, for a long time. This story has really shaken athletics. What was it like for you to have this conversation with the man at the center of it who has said so little publicly since he filed the suit?

WILLIAMS: I can give you the analogy of - in football, when you want to challenge a call, you throw in the flag - right? - the challenge flag. And what you're seeing right now in real time, the first time in the history of the NFL, you have a Black head coach who is throwing the challenge flag at the NFL.

And everything that I've heard from Brian Flores himself personally has led me to the conclusion that he has evidence to back up his claim. So now the question is, how will the NFL handle this class-action lawsuit moving forward? And ultimately, will you see that equate to more Black head coaches in the game of the NFL and football?

SHAPIRO: Jay Williams is host of NPR's new podcast The Limits, and you can hear his full conversation with Brian Flores on the latest episode. Jay, it's good to talk to you. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF APHEX TWIN'S "AGEISPOLIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.