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Marvin Lewis: Black coaches have been getting sham interviews in the NFL for decades

Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says the kinds of sham interviews that Brian Flores details in his lawsuit against the NFL have been going on for decades.

Lewis said on ESPN today that in 2002 he saw media reports that the Panthers were going to hire John Fox as their next head coach, but the Panthers convinced Lewis to come in for an interview anyway. Lewis said he firmly believes then-Panthers owner Jerry Richardson just wanted to be able to say he interviewed a Black candidate, even though Richardson told him at the time it was a real interview and he hadn’t yet made up his mind to hire Fox.

“I did interview with the Carolina Panthers before John Fox got the job,” Lewis said. “I ended up going down to Charlotte to meet with the Richardson family and they said that wasn’t true and so forth, and then they named John the head coach.”

That was before the Rooney Rule, which was adopted in 2003, required teams to interview at least one minority candidate. But the NFL was also facing criticism for not giving enough Black coaches a chance, and Lewis thinks his Panthers interview was an attempt to thwart that criticism, not a legitimate interview.

Flores has said that other Black coaches might join him in his lawsuit against the NFL, and Lewis could be a potential plaintiff if he can also demonstrate that he faced discrimination. A year after he was snubbed by the Panthers, Lewis was hired by the Bengals, and he stayed there until 2018. But he hasn’t been able to get a head-coaching job since.