Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores directs his team during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Sports and politics. Here we go again.

Last week I tried to draw a parallel between the NFL and international affairs. This week, I get to do the same domestically.

There has been a big brouhaha since Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his upcoming retirement. Much of it has surrounded President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to select a Black woman to fill the vacancy.

This week, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores – who is Black – filed a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging a lot of different bad things. Now, lawyers often write complaints outlining wild, salacious allegations to win sympathy. Without additional evidence, they should be taken with a hefty dose of salt.

But Flores’ suit had additional evidence in the form of texts from New England coach Bill Belichick. Belichick texted Flores – his former assistant – a heartfelt congratulations once he heard that he was hired by the New York Giants.

There was only one problem; Flores hadn’t interviewed for the job yet. The rumor was one of Belichick’s other former assistants named Brian was selected for the job: Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills. Who happens to be white.

Flores’ interview with the Giants was necessary to comply with the “Rooney Rule,” which mandates NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate when a head coaching position becomes available. Given the timeline, it sounds like New York was merely “checking the box” and had no intent to seriously consider Flores.

These are two sides of the same coin. Biden’s promise was to meet a demographic niche regardless of whoever else might be available. The NFL’s “Rooney Rule” requires an interview performance from NFL teams with no underlying substance.

It is a challenging intersection of America’s history with race. The stain of chattel slavery still shows in our culture today. Race impacts us, consciously or otherwise. Yet, the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. call us towards a higher ideal, where we are judged on the “content of our character” rather than the “color of our skin.”  

With respect to the forthcoming Supreme Court vacancy, if demographic representation is the objective, why a Black woman? We have had five women appointed to the court. We have had two Black men. We have had one — maybe two — Hispanic justices. But we have never had anyone, male or female, on the court who was ethnically Asian.  

The same holds true in the NFL. Just last year, former New England Patriot Eugene Chung – whose family came from Korea – was reportedly told he was not “the right minority” to interview for a coaching position under the “Rooney Rule.”  

This demographic dynamic takes on particular importance with respect to the Supreme Court. Justice Breyer’s successor will hear a case arguing that affirmative action policies have an impermissively discriminatory impact on certain minority groups. More specifically, Asian-Americans.

Biden will likely not waiver from his campaign promise. And, by all accounts, the top three preferati rumored to be in the running are well-qualified jurists. Barring any surprise, they will — and should — be confirmed by the Senate.  

Yet, would they have been in contention without Biden’s campaign promise? Would Brian Flores have been considered more seriously if the Giants didn’t have to go through the motions? When it comes to minority representation, where do Asian-Americans fit?  

Our nation’s continuing challenge with race is reflected in both our sports and our politics.  There is no simple solution.

And anyone who promises an easy fix probably is trying to sell you something.

Avatar photo

Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.