Brian Flores submitted an amended complaint in his suit accusing the National Football League and its teams of engaging in racial discrimination in hiring, adding two former NFL coaches as plaintiffs and alleging that the Houston Texans retaliated against Flores by removing him from consideration for their head coaching position due to his filing the action and speaking publicly about systemic discrimination in the NFL. Meanwhile, the controversy continues to produce fallout beyond the scope of the litigation itself. As the Rooney Rule—the NFL’s hiring protocol directing teams to interview a diverse slate of candidates for particular positions—has come under increased scrutiny, the league adopted a new policy requiring all 32 teams to hire a “female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” offensive assistant coach for the 2022 season, with the coach’s salary to be paid from a league-wide fund. The new rule is based on the understanding that it is the top offensive assistant coaching positions that produce the most sought-after head coaching candidates. The NFL also adopted other new policies to address diverse hiring at the annual owners meeting. The league: modified the Rooney Rule directly so that a team may interview women or people of color to satisfy the requirement that it interview two external minority candidates for head coach and executive positions; publicized a mission statement to encourage and attract diverse members of prospective ownership groups; and announced a Diversity Advisory Committee, which will analyze diversity, equity, and inclusion in the NFL’s hiring process.
On a different, but related, front for the NFL, attorneys general representing six states penned a letter addressed to Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing concern over the league’s and teams’ treatment of female employees and persistent problems with a toxic workplace culture. The letter, coming primarily in response to a New York Times article about the development of the workplace culture at the NFL following the Ray Rice incident, points to issues related to the hiring and promotion of women, sexual harassment, and the treatment of women who have experienced domestic violence. New York AG Letitia James indicated that she is prepared to prosecute hostile workplace claims unless conditions improve. The letter follows an ongoing congressional investigation into how the NFL handled allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct at the Washington Commanders franchise that resulted in a $10 million fine assessed to the team.
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer expired on March 31, but negotiations will continue through April as both sides expressed optimism that a new agreement is within reach. The February settlement that the parties reached in the team’s long-running equal pay lawsuit is contingent on the ratification of a new CBA. The bargaining’s primary sticking point seems to be how the Federation will distribute FIFA prize money between the men’s and women’s teams—in the past, U.S. Soccer paid the men significantly more for their World Cup performances than the women.