Brian Flores, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, shocked the sports world the other day by filing a class action lawsuit against the New York Giants and the NFL. The news was so powerful it overshadowed the retirement of the greatest football player of all-time. Flores’ claim is based on discrimination and came about due to the New York Giants allegedly choosing Brian Daboll as their head coach prior to interviewing Flores for the vacant coaching spot. If not for New England Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, accidentally sending a congratulatory text message to Flores instead of to Daboll, Flores may have never known his upcoming interview was not being conducted in good faith.
Within Flores’ complaint he specifies three major problems he faced as a head coach and when interviewing for head coaching vacancies. The first part of his complaint claims the league refuses to adequately address racism, specifically when it comes to the hiring and retention of black coaches, coordinators, and general managers. For this part, he cites the alleged text messages from Bill Belichick to show he was not given a fair opportunity for the New York Giants head coaching position, which violates the the Rooney Rule. The second part of his complaint goes further on possible “sham” interviews that he was a part of, specifically with the Denver Broncos. In this part, Flores claims when interviewing with the Broncos in 2019 general manager, John Elway, and team president, Joe Ellis, showed up an hour late, completely disheveled and the team was only interviewing him to comply with the Rooney Rule. Lastly, his complaint alleges that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked him to “tank” the Dolphins during the 2019 season to improve the teams draft position. This part of the complaint is what I will focus on, and its potential implications on the sports betting world.
The NFL has embraced sports betting in recent years. The idea an owner would pay a coach money to purposefully lose games is problematic, but the fact the NFL has become increasingly engaged in sports betting makes this idea even more of a problem. To make matters worse, Ross’ private investments included $17.5 million in the Action Network, a sports-betting related company, in 2019. Any question against the integrity of the game is one of major concern, and if Flores can produce anything to prove the conversation between he and Ross occurred it could leave a major blemish on the NFL and the sports industry as a whole.
Following Flores’s allegations, former Browns head coach Hue Jackson claimed a similar encounter happened between him and Browns executives. The executive director of Jackson’s foundation says they have records to support this. It is possible Ross, and Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, could face prosecution for bribing coaches and other team executives to deliberately lose football games. The Sports Bribery Act criminalizes such conduct under 18 U.S.C. § 224, “whoever carries into effect, attempts to carry into effect, or conspires with any other person to carry into effect any scheme in commence to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest, with knowledge of the purpose of such scheme is to influence by bribery that contests, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” The statute does not require the bribe to be accepted, therefore the alleged offer to Flores would constitute a violation by Ross if true. The allegations against both Ross and Haslam are more than enough to get prosecutors’ attention, and may very well lead to an indictment if more evidence on the matter comes to light.
A foundational aspect of sports betting is the expectation that all teams are playing to win every week. The NFL is heavily invested in sports betting, and any potential evidence Flores can bring to light against Ross and Jackson can produce against the Haslam and the Browns could potentially be earth shattering for the integrity of football as well as its survival in the new sports betting landscape.