Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

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Former and current Steelers coaches continue to play a prominent role in a class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in NFL coaching hiring.

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Ray Horton and former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks have joined the lawsuit, filed by former Miami Dolphins coach and current Steelers assistant Brian Flores. Mike Mularkey, a former Steelers tight end, offensive coordinator and ex-coach of the Tennessee Titans, also is named in the suit.

Horton, now retired, asserts the Titans only interviewed him for the head coaching position in 2016 to adhere to the Rooney Rule. Named after the late Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the rule requires minorities to be interviewed for head coaching and high-level administrative football jobs.

States the lawsuit addendum: “As Mr. Horton now understands, the rush to interview him was an orchestrated attempt to make it appear that the Titans had complied with the Rooney Rule and otherwise appear to have given an equal opportunity to Black candidates so the team could
announce the pre-made decision to hire Mr. Mularkey as Head Coach.”

The lawsuit noted that Mularkey, the former Titans coach stated on the “Steelers Realm” podcast in 2020 that the Titans in 2016 told him he would be hired even before the team interviewed minority candidates.

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Wilks, recently hired as the Carolina Panthers’ secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator, was the Arizona Cardinals head coach in 2018. After a 3-13 first season record he was fired and replaced with coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Flores, fired after the 2021 season, has sued the NFL and three teams alleging discrimination in their hiring practices.

While 70 percent of NFL players are Black, just five of the 32 head coaches are minorities: Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders), Lovie Smith (Houston Texans), Robert Saleh (New York Jets) and Mike McDaniels (Miami Dolphins).

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