The Other Shoe To Drop In Former NFL Coach’s Allegations May Lead To Biggest Sports Scandal Since Shoeless Joe

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Andrew Afifian Contributor
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Former NFL head coach Brian Flores rocked the world of sports this week when he filed a lawsuit against the league. But there’s one more shoe to drop in his allegations that might lead to the biggest sports scandal since the 1919 World Series.

The allegation that is getting the most press — that of racial discrimination in hiring practices — by itself might have actually presented the NFL an opportunity to burnish its image through the usual routine of genuflection and penitence. However, it is the nature of Flores’ other allegation that is perhaps most troubling. If proven true, it threatens to damage the NFL in ways that no professional sports league on this side of the world has endured in decades.

Initially, the NFL was dismissive of allegations in Flores’ lawsuit which pertain to Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offering the then-head coach $100,000 for every game that he lost in the 2019 season. It seems likely that the NFL hoped this particular allegation would quietly go away and the league would only have to deal with the charges of racism in hiring.

Well, apparently, that’s not happening. Once Flores dropped his bombshell, former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson implied he was offered a similar deal. The NFL now plans to open an investigation into “tanking and tampering,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday. If the NFL is being forced to change tack and confront this charge, history tells us the unfolding scandal could easily escalate into a firestorm, the likes of which sports fans have not seen in a century. (RELATED: Dolphins Owners Stephen Ross Claims Brian Flores’ ‘Allegations Are False’)

Though there may not be any written offer of a pay-to-lose scheme made to Flores, there are apparently multiple witnesses, per NFL Network reporter Cameron Wolfe. Meanwhile, reporters and keen observers of the relationship between sports entertainment and sports gambling are sounding the alarm.

Many are starting to see shades of baseball’s Pete Rose betting scandal, where the most serious allegations revolved around Charlie Hustle betting on his own team’s games while he was the manager. The implication would be that if he bet against his own team, it would follow that he would try to lose on purpose.

The Chicago White Sox lost on purpose in the 1919 World Series. It was perhaps the most infamous case of sports fixing in the nation’s history and certainly the most consequential. Many conspiracists in that event were banned for life from baseball, including some of the era’s greatest players. In the fallout, baseball appointed an all-powerful commissioner who built a wall between gambling entities and those associated with it and baseball that endured until very recently. Other major sports treated the sports betting industry in a similar fashion, urged along by a long-standing federal law preventing the spread of sports betting, which the Supreme Court overturned in 2018.

Anyone watching an NFL broadcast today knows times have changed. Sportsbook commercials are common during games and feature big stars like the Mannings. The NFL even has a team in Las Vegas now.

The seriousness of this matter is compounded because Ross invested in a sports gambling startup at around the same time that he allegedly made Flores the offer to lose. It is fair to say the NFL, and modern professional sports, are in uncharted territory.