A key sticking point has emerged in the lawsuit filed by Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Brian Flores against the NFL, as Flores’ attorneys are battling efforts by the league to keep details of the case out of public view.
Flores’ representatives have argued that the case should be tried in open court, and not settled through private arbitration, because of the benefit to the NFL of keeping the proceedings secret.
In the NFL’s bid to move the case to arbitration, redacted copies of NFL coaching contracts were entered into evidence, according to a report by The Athletic on Tuesday.
“The NFL and its teams should not be permitted to simply dictate confidentiality based on their unilateral purported ‘relevance’ determinations and preferences, in contravention of the well-settled law,” Flores attorney Douglas Wigdor wrote in a letter to judge Valerie Caproni later obtained by The Athletic.
“Allowing the NFL to do so at this early stage would not only set an improper precedent for the remainder of this proceeding, but it would incorrectly signal to other litigants in this district that the presumption of openness is easily overcome.”
The contracts are Flores’, from his time as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, along with his assistant coaching contracts with the New England Patriots and Steelers, along with the contracts of fellow plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton.
The NFL is arguing that the contracts provide proprietary information to the teams and how they go about identifying, negotiating with and securing the services of coaches and publicly releasing all of the information contained in the contracts would put the impacted teams at a competitive disadvantage.
Flores’ suit alleges racial discrimination in hiring practices among NFL teams. He accused the New York Giants of conducting a sham interview with him after they had already hired Brian Daboll as their next head coach and also alleged that the Denver Broncos brass showed up hungover to his interview in 2019 and that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to pay him $100,000 per loss in Miami in 2019. Flores was fired by the Dolphins this January.
Wilks, who was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, and Horton, a longtime NFL defensive assistant that spent seven years with the Steelers, joined Flores’ suit in April.