Former Cardinals coaches Wilks and Horton join Flores’ NFL lawsuit

Former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and former team defensive coordinator Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores’ racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the NFL and various teams over their hiring processes, according to ESPN.

The move comes after former Miami Dolphins head coach and current Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Flores cited the ‘double standard’ imposed on Wilks compared to their white counterparts proposed in the lawsuit. against the league, Dolphins, New York Giants, Houston Texans. , and Denver Broncos on Feb. 1.

The Cardinals and Tennessee Titans are now among 26 other “John Doe” NFL teams added to the mix.

Wilks was fired in January 2019 after a season when the Cardinals had the league’s worst 3-13. He was replaced by Kliff Kingsbury, who had no NFL coaching experience the following month.

The amended lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York, seeking increased transparency in NFL hiring, incentives for hiring black coaches and increased visibility for black assistant coaches, and others. things.

Legal counsel for Flores, Wilks and Horton said Wilks had been discriminated against as a “deck coach” who had “no meaningful chance of success”.

The lawyers wrote that despite Kingsbury’s success in his three seasons with the team (24-26-1), “Mr. Wilks, given the same opportunity offered to Mr. Kingsbury, would surely have been successful as well.”

wilks write a statement released by his attorneys on why he added his case to the trial with Flores.

“When Coach Flores filed this suit, I knew I had a duty to myself and all black coaches and aspiring black coaches in the NFL to stand by him,” Wilks said. “This trial has shed important new light on a problem that we all know exists, but too few are prepared to confront.

“Black coaches and candidates should have the exact same ability to become employed and remain employed as white coaches and candidates. This is not currently the case, and I look forward to working with Coach Flores and Coach Horton to ensure that the aspiration of racial equality in the NFL becomes a reality.”

Wilks became defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns the same month he was fired by Arizona, and was at Cleveland for one season until his former head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired. Wilks then became the defensive coordinator at the University of Missouri in January 2021 and has now returned to the NFL as the Carolina Panthers passing game coordinator and secondary coach since February.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton during the NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.

Horton was the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals from 2011-2012. However, he joins the lawsuit not against the Cardinals in his case, but against the Titans.

Horton served as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to the following year and was interviewed for the team’s head coaching job.

Flores’ legal team said Horton’s interview was “a completely bogus interview conducted solely to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the post”.

Mularkey was the Titans’ interim head coach for the final nine games of the 2015 season. The Titans hired Mularkey, who is white, for the job in place of Horton, and served as their head coach from 2016 to 2017.

Mularkey, who retired from coaching in 2020, revealed in a “Steelers Realm” podcast that year that the Titans owners told him he would be hired full-time before officially ending the interview process, which included the interview with two minority candidates.

Mularkey mentioned this situation in response to a question about his career regrets.

“I’m proud to stand with Coach Flores and Coach Wilks in the fight against the systemic discrimination that has plagued the NFL for far too long.” Horton said in a statement.

“When I learned from Coach Mularkey’s statement that my interview with the Titans head coach was a sham, I was devastated and humiliated. By joining the deal, I hope to turn this experience into a positive and bring lasting change and create true equality of opportunity in the future.”

Flores filed a lawsuit after allegedly faked a Giants interview for their head coaching job until Brian Daboll, who is white, was hired in January. Flores also accused the Broncos of conducting a fake interview in 2019, saying both teams undermined the league’s Rooney rule. He also cited alleged pressure from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to spoof the team, or intentionally lose games, to get better draft picks in exchange for $100,000 per loss.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches a play, during the second half during an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Miami Gardens , in Florida.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Flores coached the Dolphins from 2019 until he was fired in January after going 9-8. They finished the season on a seven-game winning streak and he had two title-winning seasons in his last two years there, but never made the playoffs.

The rule, which was implemented in 2003, requires that at least one black candidate be part of the interview process when hiring members of the coaching staff for teams.

When the Flores lawsuit was filed, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers was the only black head coach in the NFL. There have been three other minority head coaches hired since then: Mike McDaniel of the Dolphins, Lovie Smith of the Texans and Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The league expanded its Rooney Rule requirements on March 28, requiring all 32 teams to employ a woman or member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach, and that person will have a one-year contract. .

Do you have any advice for us? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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