There are two types of watershed moments. There are those that we don’t necessarily see as tipping points while they’re happening. Then there are those that, the moment we hear about them, we understand that from that point on, things might never be the same.
Jesse Owens making a statement in the 1936 Berlin Olympics was one such moment. Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier was another.
There’s Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising a gloved fist in Mexico City, Muhammad Ali refusing to go to Vietnam and being subsequently stripped of his Heavyweight title. There was also Curt Flood suing Major League Baseball which led to the dawn of the free agent athlete.
When L.A. Dodgers GM Al Campanis told Ted Koppel on live television in 1987 that black men didn’t have the necessities to fill higher office positions, he and his job were soon parted yet here we are forty years later in the same position with minorities struggling with equal opportunity for advancement through the ranks in professional sports.
These are all watershed moments in our sports and cultural history that resonate to this day, whether we recognized it at the time or not. There were other moments where people put the system on trial. One such man, former UCLA great Ed O’Brannon, realized that college sports and video game companies were using his likeness to turn a tidy profit while he hadn’t received a cent. O’Bannon sued the NCAA. Only now are we seeing college athletes receiving compensation for their name, image, and likeness.
There’s a new landmark case that has the potential to shake the NFL to its very core. Not only did former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sue both the NFL and certain teams for unfair hiring practices, but he also claims that his former boss, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, offered to pay him $100,000 per game to lose on purpose.
It is at times like these that I turn to that blogger down the street to discuss the lawsuit and perhaps bat around where this news ranks in the grand scheme of change. Is this Flores lawsuit as big a deal as we think or just a bump in the road?
Sir Dub, I think we’re both embittered enough to realize the NFL will pay lip service to these latest allegations. It’s already bumbled over its own two cleats which should come as no surprise but what of the Ross allegations? With legalized gambling on more and more state’s slates, how does the professional gambler in you react to news that owners could be throwing games? There’s a lot to digest here and I’m unsure exactly where to start.
What I find most commendable about the Flores lawsuit is that he threw himself and his career on the proverbial sword for decades if not centuries of wrongdoing. Unlike Kareem and the NBA or Ali and professional boxing, the NFL can survive without Flores. Prior to last week, we all knew him as the coach who got fired after winning seven straight games for the Miami Dolphins. We see him a little differently now, his name forever linked to the impetus behind some seriously ruffled feathers.
I don’t necessarily know that there’s much for us to debate here. While you and I normally reside on opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s hard to argue that racism in one form or another doesn’t exist in both NFL and America in general. So let me start off by asking you this. On a scale of one to ten, how confident are you that the NFL will be able to come, for lack of a better term, enlightened and receptive to qualified candidates of color and how does this come about?
Here we go again. Thanks to the sewage treatment plant that is “identity politics,” it falls to the middle-aged black guy to explain what this might be really all about to the middle-aged white guy. Thankfully, were at the point in this story where the white-hot flames of accusation give way to the embers of “due process.” Hopefully, that means we can blow away some of the smoke here, get to the bottom of what’s happening, because that’s the only way we can make any progress.
Progress…that’s why I really care about, and that’s why I have a view on this issue which is going to run against the grain. Having said that, let’s start at the beginning. Despite the fact the Chump and I tend to be on the opposite sides of (insert issue here), he’s right that there’s no debating racism exists in both National Football League and America in general.
I’ll take that agreement to the next level. Racism exists across the entire global spectrum because it has existed since the dawn of human nature and will exist until the end of it. It’s a part of human nature we all wish didn’t exist, but it does. That’s why it evokes those white-hot responses.
But that’s also why it makes a perfect smokescreen.
Think about it. How many times have we been here? Chump’s rollcall of watershed moments bears that out. I’m surprised he didn’t go all the way back to Crispus Attucks. But we can walk as long as we want down Uncomfortable Memory Lane, and we’ll never get anywhere. We never have.
So, to answer your “scale of one-to-ten” question, the answer is absolutely hard fucking zero.
There’s an easy answer as to why. The great irony about any discussion about anything in this country today is the minute race becomes part of the issue, everybody immediately breaks into camps.
First, there’s the “Hand-Ringers.” These are the people who get overly-sensitive about everything, and get shrieky with you if you don’t immediately take their viewpoint as the gospel.
Then there’s the “Guilt-Trippers,” who share the over-sensitive nature of the “Hand-Ringers,” but their condemnation of even the slightest questioning of anything they say ramps up to something like “that’s easy for you to say coming from (insert whatever catch-phrase you want pointing out your reasonably comfortable, middle-class nature).
The natural progression here leads us to the “Militants,” who really are just louder and more threatening “Guilt-Trippers;” normally their (insert whatever catch-phrase you want pointing out your reasonably comfortable, middle-class nature) ends with “…and someday we’re going to bring the struggle to you.”
Then there’s the “America is irreparably broken” crowd. Regardless of numbers, this is the group you hear the loudest, and as such, they tend to drive the discussion. No progress is enough, no change can come fast enough, and there’s nothing that can be done to fix nearly five centuries of history.
Somewhere in the middle there are people who can avoid the “herd” mentality. I think you might be one of those, Chump…otherwise I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of having this discussion. But to know for sure, I have to see your answer to this question. Are you willing to entertain the idea that Brian Flores, the NFL or BOTH might be completely full of shit on this issue?
(For the reader, if you can’t come to terms with that concept, I’ll explain this in a bit…)
Somewhere in the middle will always fall the truth and as we get farther away from the incidents at hand, that truth will become more difficult to decipher. It’s what Chuck Klosterman calls “false memories” or “mental confabulation” in his latest work.
Do I suspect there were times when Brian Flores, a black man, felt uncomfortable amidst the white billionaires who run the league? Sure, who wouldn’t? Do I suspect that Flores felt he was discriminated against in the competition for positions for which he felt qualified? I’ll buy that as well.
Do I feel that Flores was fed up to the point he wanted to make a statement about unfair hiring practices in the league? I don’t have a problem with that truth either. Is it also perfectly possible that the other coaches, those being white, were hired not based on the color of their skin but because owners felt they were a more appropriate fit for the direction of their franchise? It’s also very possible those making the hiring decisions didn’t like Brian Flores, the man. (Not everyone’s as likeable as us, Dubs.)
Do I feel that despite the progress (small “p”) we’ve made in discussing race relations in this country, that there are still cultural differences many Americans feel uncomfortable addressing, don’t understand, or don’t care to understand? Well, duh.
So then what is Brian Flores’ end game? Is he doing this to land a job (micro) or is he trying to openly become a martyr in the hopes that this lawsuit will take a bite out of crime and open more doors to people of color (macro)? If so, he’s even more of an idealist than I am.
The burden of proof is on Flores here. How do you prove that someone is inherently racist? It’s not like they have meters on their foreheads reading “Racist Here.” Just because someone doesn’t use inflammatory language doesn’t mean they’re not racist. Just because someone does doesn’t mean that they are, although it’s generally a good indication. Just because they’re white doesn’t mean they’re racist, just because they’re black doesn’t mean they’re not. Intolerance of others is a complex, age-old matter which brings us back to the lawsuit and your question.
Am I open to the idea that all parties are full of shit? Sure, although I’ll also admit, based on the league’s track record and that it is an American (if not the utmost of American) institutions, I’m inclined to believe Flores has a case.
First of all, I’m not “likable;” and what I’m about to say is going to get me some “I don’t like you” mail…because it’s going to be an uncomfortably large dose of truth. That’s going to start with an admission on my part. I was wrong thinking you might be the “in the middle“ guy. You’re in the “no progress will ever be enough” herd. The dead give-away came in that last paragraph. If the “track record” has you inclined to move your needle one way or another based on nothing more than the accusation and the involved parties, by definition that means you care more about the history than the progress away from the starting point. In your very own introduction, you used the broad brush of history to paint a picture which completely downplays progress.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem. I’m also not saying there isn’t room for growth. But I’m also not going to buy an argument pretending that the calendar in America is stuck on 1963.
As long as we are on the topic of understanding, my hat is off to you for hiding your “herd” membership as well as you did. I understand completely why you’re there…it offers a great deal of safety. Successfully sticking the racist label on a white person has been one of the worst things you can do to them since O.J. Simpson used it to get away with two murders.
In fact, the disguise you have on your “herd” membership is almost as good as your obfuscation of the definition of racism. That’s a vital component for allowing the herd to use it as a smokescreen. The more malleable the diversion, the more you can use it…and the more safety it can provide.
The problem is the maintenance of your own safety creates great dangers for others. Specifically, when you choose to allow such devastating accusations to be leveled and your predilection is already tilted toward one side before the facts can be examined opens the door to things far worse.
Sadly, like racism, the “weaponization” of accusations in America is nothing new. It’s easy to point the finger at the “Twitter mob,” changing social mores, or even those (gasp) dreaded bloggers, but the reality is that phenomenon dates back to the first newspaper ever printed in this country. Everybody remembers the splashy headlines; nobody ever reads the retractions.
If you doubt that, just look at the dynamics of this case. We have a black football coach leveling a lot of exceptionally strong accusations at a lot of white guys at various levels in the National Football League. Chump already has his hands behind his back ready to snowplow them to the middle of the table, but I’m not ready to bet my stack after I’ve only seen the first two cards.
That takes us back to my original questioning of this matter and wondering which side, if not both, might be full of shit. For purposes of full disclosure, this is the part where Chump’s “track record” concept of the NFL holds a bit of water. There’s really no denying that throughout his tenure, Commissioner Roger Goodell fumbles more often than he doesn’t; his general level of dipshitery makes him and the entire league easy to paint with the broadest of brushes.
But the part that’s going to get me the “hate” mail from the “herd” is questioning Brian Flores. I think it’s entirely possible that his claims are of a dubious nature. If you read the text of his lawsuit, you immediately notice it starts with a lot of a Chump-esque history lesson which immediately morphs into the predictable “no progress will ever be enough” screed. That gets even more detailed when you get the “Factual Allegations.”
Frankly the further I read, the more I began to suspect this lawsuit was less a sweeping move for the advancement of civil rights and more one of those really ugly divorces in which both sides are “dirty” and the accusations start flying to provide the aforementioned “smokescreen.”
For me, the big “red flag” was this document was clearly in production long before it was filed. That seems obvious, but Flores got his interview in question with the Giants on Thursday, January 27th, 2022. and this document was filed on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022. Accounting for the weekend, I’m supposed to believe this document was authored from beginning to end and filed in less than five business days. Not a chance.
In other words, Flores had to know heavy weather was coming, and the only thing outside of the aforementioned “history lesson” that foretold trouble was the allegation against Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross that he offered $100,000 per game to deliberately lose in 2019.
If proven to be true, this is “Black Sox Scandal”-level bad for the NFL. This is the kind of stuff that kicks off FBI investigations and gets people tossed into the slammer on federal enterprise corruption charges. You can look through that entire lawsuit, and this is the only thing which rises to the “criminal” level. Everything else is a civil matter, but the history of sports in America…not just football…is full of guys who went to prison for fixing games.
Having said that, here’s my alternate theory as to what this lawsuit is really all about. Start with the idea that Ross and Flores at one point were in bed together, likely over the “pay for losing” scheme. Ross made the offer and Flores took the money, which makes them both dirty. That makes their relationship all about “I won’t tell if you don’t.” But then something changed the equation, namely whatever it was that got Flores fired (which is never mentioned, only a reference to a “tampering” scheme).
For whatever reason, Flores then found himself in a potential criminal conspiracy with a billionaire far better-equipped to ride out any legal storms that may bring. That’s the source of the lawsuit chock full of incendiary allegations headlined by a demand for a jury trial. Don’t forget in civil court, the “burden of proof” which rests with plaintiff Flores is far lower than in criminal court. Flores knows Ross doesn’t want to end up in front of a jury with enough “herd” members who will lap up the racial charges. That means Flores’ real goal here is an out-of-court settlement which might yield him a few bucks, but more importantly includes a non-disclosure agreement which gets all the dirty dealings of the “pay for losing”: scheme frozen in the amber of “I can’t tell and neither can you.”
It’s pure conjecture on my part, but it’s the only thing that links all the moving parts here. Are you still pushing all your chips on the “race is the only possible” angle, Chump? If so, I really want to play poker with you sometime.
Now for the really fun part. Literally as I’m writing this, Brian Flores accepted a position Not to mention he just accepted a coaching job with the Pittsburgh Steelers as senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.
Things that make you go “Hmmm….”
I want you to know that the irony of you segregating different portions of the population based upon their belief systems is not lost on me for it is that sort of generalization that got us into this mess in the first place. Blacks can’t coach, white billionaires are racist, liberals whine that no progress will ever be enough, etc., etc. Furthermore, I fail to see where my ranking on your bleeding-heart liberal scale (a solid 6!) has any bearing on this case whatsoever.
I’m not sitting on the jury of this case. I’m a blog poster and a sports fan who understands that while biases may sway public opinion, Flores likely has a gripe. And right about now, you can bet your 3XL, mustard stained, pajama pants that Stephen Ross is more worried about his future than Flores despite his infinitely more impressive net worth. That’s because he has a lot more to lose. To quote De La Soul, the Stakes is High. Another safely placed wager is that the NFL is doing its best to cover its tracks better than it did during the Great Jon Gruden E-mail Fiasco of 2021.
Did Flores get caught up in a compromising situation in Miami through no fault of his own? Perhaps. Did he take money? I don’t know that either. Is he at fault for not reporting Ross when this first happened? Maybe. But who’s he supposed to go to? Roger Goodell, the owner’s puppet? I promise you that if this suit loses momentum thanks to Flores getting comfy drawing up defenses in Pittsburgh, I will concede the argument. Flores doesn’t seem like the type of guy to sell out though.
When it’s all said and done, we will conclude what we knew all along: that secret handshakes take place at over-priced steak dinners and that losing football games can occasionally be a wise financial decision.
To put it terms that you’ll understand, the NFL is very much like… sausage. We don’t want to know how the sausage is made yet we eat the sausage and love every, last bite. We know it’s delicious. We just don’t care to visit the slaughterhouses and packaging plants where it all goes down. Tanking football games makes long-term financial sense. A no-brainer draft pick who can sell tickets, er… turn your franchise around, means crappy teams will become miraculously crappier in Week 17, but it’s altogether different when we hear these things are being incentivized. If it makes you feel any better, I also question why this is the first we’re hearing about it if it happened so many moons ago, and perhaps with other coaches throughout time.
If Ross can prove that Flores took a cent of that $100,000, those are offsetting penalties and Flores’ credibility is shot but there’s still the smoking gun of selling fans the idea that teams are trying to win when they have no intention to. That fact that the NFL hasn’t moved on this with a Sterling-like swiftness of the NBA tells me there’s more to tanking than meets the eye.
Nobody tells NFL owners what to do. Stephen Ross’ net worth is over $7 billion and he’s not even the wealthiest of the lot. That’s why they employ a commissioner: to run interference. If throwing games were that big of a deal, the league would have already pursued its own “independent” investigation, which would obviously result in no wrong-doing and some healthy cut checks to attorneys on the payroll.
Bet your bottom dollar the NFL is blowing through more paper shredders than Watergate. As you suggested, the last thing they want is another coach citing another owner for incentivizing losing. Ross skating on these allegations means the league paid about as much lip service to this as it did to the Rooney Rule, which was well-intentioned but ill-policed.
We can beat this racehorse (see what I did there) and both agree that black head coaches don’t get a fair shake in the NFL. In other news, the sky is blue and we’re both bald.
So back to the gambling front and let’s close this thing out as I’m sure our combined five readers are tired of hearing us bicker. Never mind the ethical and immoral front of losing contests intentionally. With the NFL becoming more open publicly to gambling, how will the league convince sports gamblers that there’s nothing to see here and that we are betting on games that aren’t predetermined?
Chump is right about one thing…it’s time to bring this discussion to a close. He’s also right about the joke that is the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.” If you’ve read this “back and forth” this far, it really boils down to a basic disagreement. Chump thinks Brian Flores has a “gripe.” He might. As far as his claims of being a victim of racism…I think he might not.
I’ll keep this simple. Does racism exist in America…or everywhere else on Earth? Absolutely. Is it a “catch-all” for everything bad that’s ever happened to a person of color? No, but sadly…sometimes it does get used that way. I think this is one of those times.
I’ve already walked through how I think Flores is blowing a lot of smoke to distract from his involvement in a matter which will cut directly to the integrity of the game. In fact, that happened with Calvin Ridley the other day suggests the NFL has a potential “Pandora’s Box” about to burst. In fact, look forward to that discussion between the Chump and myself as that situation as a coming attraction.
There’s an old saying to the effect of “where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.” What the presence of smoke doesn’t tell you is how many fires there actually are. The problem I have here is the crux of Flores’ lawsuit…and a big chunk of Chump’s argument…is a meandering ramble through history. It’s very slim on anything that actually happened to Flores himself, short of the incendiary “game-tanking” allegations.
Like the Chump and I have done, you can argue that point amongst yourselves all day long. But there’s one fact that sews up my point. Yeah, the “Rooney Rule” is a joke. The NFL under Roger Goodell hasn’t handled this issue well at all. And there’s an inarguable reason why…and it’s not racism.
For just about everything, the NFL has a program to help players. When they first come into the league, the NFL puts them through a symposium on how to deal with their new-found money. When they leave the league, there are programs to help with the transition to the post-NFL life. Their last collective bargaining agreement created a much-improved structure to provide post-career players with health-care. The NFL even has an academy dedicated to the recruitment and training of officials.
But do you know what it doesn’t have? For as long as this issue has been bubbling, especially given the history Flores is reciting…why does the NFL not have a program to recruit and groom players for a post-playing days career in coaching?
After all, it’s not like they don’t know there’s a problem. It’s not like they don’t how to build a solution to a problem. So, what explains the league’s complete oversight to such an obvious answer…especially given how it’s taken on other issues involving race? That feels far more like sheer incompetence rather than racism to me.