Pro Bowl players echo concerns over Flores lawsuit

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LA VEGAS – The fun of football and the games surrounding the Pro Bowl haven’t stopped some of the NFL’s best players from thinking about the racial inequalities highlighted by the discrimination lawsuit of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores. against the league.

“I think it goes without saying that we have a problem,” Matthew Slater, veteran New England Patriots wide receiver and special teams ace, told The Associated Press.

“I don’t know if that’s the process,” he added. “I don’t know what you want to attribute it to. But you look at the end result of our league being 60% African American and having only one African American coach, a minority owner, not a lot of representation within the front office and senior management – to me that says we have a problem.”

Slater’s opinion was echoed by other pros on Saturday after the AFC Pro Bowl team‘s light practice at the Las Vegas Ballpark, the suburban baseball field where the two teams practice ahead of Sunday’s game at the Allegiant stadium. The Pro Bowl is back after a year-long hiatus, and the All-Star Game debuts in Sin City after the previous four in Orlando.

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But Flores’ lawsuit reminded even those elite players that their sport has a lot of work to do on racial equality.

“I feel like African-American coaches sometimes have the end of the stick, so we just have to find a way to get things done,” Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard said to the PA.

“You know, a lot of owners…behind closed doors say a lot of things, and as players we don’t see that,” Leonard added. “And coaches, with Brian, you lose and that (stinks), and you want to make a change. Somehow we have to find a way to create an equal platform for all races, not just black or white, but for all races. We have to make sure it’s equal opportunity for everyone.

Flores sued the league and three teams this week for alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and executives. The lawsuit claims the league remains “riddled with racism” even as the NFL publicly champions racial equality.

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Many players and coaches have publicly supported Flores, who went 24-25 in three seasons as Dolphins head coach before his controversial dismissal last month. Flores went on to interview for the vacant New York Giants coaching job, and the experience played a part in his decision to pursue legal action.

“I just feel like this situation has to sort itself out, man,” Los Angeles Chargers goaltender Derwin James said. “Because we all need to know the facts on both sides of the story, and we really need to see what’s going on.” As I say, I support Coach Flores through everything. And like I said, I just want to know what the truth is. “

GAMES OF ODDS

The Pro Bowl is back after the first 17-game regular season in NFL history, and the league chose to host it in Las Vegas on the same weekend as the NHL All-Star Game and several smaller sporting events in Sin City. Practice attendance was quite low and the game at Allegiant Stadium is not expected to sell out.

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Players don’t complain about spending a weekend in Sin City, even when temperatures haven’t topped 60 degrees in the high desert.

“I think probably more people lost their money, so it might actually be a little bit more competitive than you think,” Kansas City offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said with a laugh. amusing. I think it will be a competitive game. It has that Pro Bowl feel.

CAN’T CUT IT

In the latest attempt at NFL innovation that also increases player safety, the Pro Bowl will not kick off.

Instead, the winner of the opening coin toss will have two options: spot the ball anywhere on the pitch for the first play, or decide to start attacking or defending from where the other team.

The so-called “spot and choose” method was suggested to the league’s competition committee last year by the Baltimore Ravens, in part as a solution to the inequities of the current overtime system.

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DIG IT

Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs could line up for the first time against his younger brother, Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs.

Their teams haven’t met since Trevon reached the NFL last season, but Vegas fans could be treated to the first matchup between the Bills’ prolific wide and the rising defensive back whose 11 interceptions were the most by one. NFL player since Everson Walls in 1981. .

NEW TOOLS

Smart young players use Pro Bowl week as a chance to get to know their competitors in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, while gaining knowledge for the future.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson, a late replacement Pro Bowl debut player, soaks it all up on his first trip to Las Vegas.

“You can learn a lot because not everyone came here for no reason,” Johnson said. “I was just there talking to Travis Kelce about how he reads a defense and how he manages his routes, how he stretches people. He gave me some tips, and I feel like I can add that to my toolbox. I feel like I can learn from everyone here.

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Associated Press freelance writer WG Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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