Former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis detailed on ESPN's First Take how he experienced a similar interview experience with the Panthers after the 2001 season as the two Brian Flores detailed in his class-action lawsuit concerning the Broncos and Giants.
“I did interview with the Carolina Panthers before John Fox got the job,” said Lewis. “And I can recall that we had lost to the Steelers in the second round of the playoffs and I remember sitting at home on Monday and, I think it was Chris Mortensen or someone else, they reported that Foxy would be named the head coach of the Panthers on Friday.
“And when I went to work Tuesday, Brian [Billick] came in, said, ‘I just got off the phone with Ozzie [Newsome] and the Panthers want you to come down and interview for the job.’ I said, ‘Coach, I just heard last night on TV that they’re gonna name Foxy the coach on Friday.’ So he goes back, he talks to Ozzie, he talks to their people, and I end up going down to Charlotte and meeting with the Richardson family and they said that wasn’t true and so forth. And they named John the head coach on Friday.
“So, you know, I don’t know. Again, that’s the situation I was in. But you have to go. You have to go and prove that you’re worthy to become the head coach. You’re appreciative of the opportunity but what was supposedly gonna happen ended up happening in that case for sure.”
Jerry Richardson, who owned Carolina at the time, would later be ousted following allegations of racial slurs, sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.
Flores is suing the league, three franchises and unidentified individuals, alleging racism in hiring practices. The complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday, seeking class-action status. Shortly after the news broke, the league released a statement asserting its commitment to diversity and called the former Dolphins coach's claims “without merit.”
Among the allegations listed in the filing, Flores said he took part in two ”sham“ interviews as teams attempted to comply with the Rooney Rule, citing the Giants and Broncos.
In 2019, then-Denver general manager John Elway, president and CEO Joe Ellis and others who were part of the interview process allegedly showed up an hour late, per the complaint.
“They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before. It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos.”
Flores also claims the Giants had already made the decision to hire Brian Daboll when they were still scheduled to interview Flores last month—which Bill Belichick accidentally revealed to him in a text message—according to the lawsuit.
The Broncos and Giants have both denied the claims made in the lawsuit.
The Rooney Rule as we know it today says NFL teams must interview two minority candidates when looking for a franchise's next head coach. The lawsuit states, “The Rooney Rule is also not working because management is not doing the interviews in good-faith, and it therefore creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess.”
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