“They’re just looking for an opportunity”: Lawyer weighs in on Steve Wilks’ NFL lawsuit

Wilks is part of a race-based lawsuit brought by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
Wilks was passed over for the Carolina Panthers' head coaching job earlier this week.
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 10:26 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In April 2022, football coach Steve Wilks joined a class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and disparity among the coaching ranks of the National Football League.

This came after he believed he was wrongly fired after just one season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Then, this week, Wilks, who most recently served as the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach during the 2022 season, was passed over for the team’s full-time position.

Wilks’ lawyers issued an immediate statement in the wake of Thursday’s decision. The hiring decision was met with division by Panthers fans, many of whom believed Wilks did enough as the interim coach to earn the permanent role.

Last year’s lawsuit was originally filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores after he claimed he was wrongfully terminated from his position.

Thomas Bundy, the general counsel for the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, says this is just the latest example of a long-standing history in the NFL.

“Unfortunately, there’s a Coach Wilks, it seems like every year,” Bundy said.

According to the lawsuit, only 11% of head coaches in the NFL are Black, while 70% of the players on the field are Black athletes.

Bundy doesn’t represent Wilks or Flores, but said the suit is hoping to raise awareness that ultimately leads to action, creating a more even playing field for coaches of color.

“People deserve opportunities when they produce,” Bundy said. “That’s all that we advocate for and that’s all that I believe Coach Flores and Coach Wilks are working for.”

While the legal process of this lawsuit plays out, Bundy said one of the keys to bringing about tangible change starts with bringing necessary attention and conversation to this issue.

“I think they’re standing on principal of what is right and what is fair,” Bundy said. “They’re not looking for anything special, they’re just looking for an opportunity to do what they do best.”

Wilks went 6-6 in 12 games at the helm for Carolina this past season, while Flores spent the year in Pittsburgh serving as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach for the Steelers.

Related: Attorney of Steve Wilks ‘shocked and disturbed’ after Panthers hire Frank Reich