Steve Wilks, the Carolina Panthers’ secondary coach and defensive pass game coordinator, is joining in a lawsuit against the NFL that claims racial discrimination in the league’s hiring practices.
Wilks alleges the Arizona Cardinals discriminated against him when they fired him in 2018 after one season as head coach.
This comes two months after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores first announced a class-action lawsuit against the NFL alleging racial discrimination in hiring and workplace practices.
“When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself, and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him,” Wilks said in a statement Thursday according to The Charlotte Observer. “This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates.
Wilks, 52, is a graduate of West Charlotte High and Appalachian State. He played for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena League in 1993, and got his start as a coach at Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University in 1995
Wilks joined the Panthers coaching staff in 2012 as defensive backs coach, and also served as assistant head coach (2015-2017) and defensive coordinator (2017).
Wilks was hired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, but was let go after one season. The Cardinals finished that season, 3-13, setting them up for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Wilks alleges the Cardinals discriminated against him when they fired him after just one season.
“Mr. Wilks was hired as a ‘bridge coach’ and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed,” the complaint states. “He was unfairly and discriminatorily fired after just one season.”
In Flores’s initial lawsuit, he pointed to Wilks’ firing as an example of racial discrimination after one season.
Wilks was the Browns’ defensive coordinator in 2019, and spent a season as the defensive coordinator at the University of Missouri. He hasn’t landed another head coaching opportunity since his firing from the Cardinals.
Wilks, currently coaching for the Panthers, has over 25 years of coaching experience at the college and NFL level.
According to CBS Sports, the NFL is still investigating claims by Flores, now employed as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant, related to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who allegedly offered the former coach $100,000 per loss during his tenure as Miami’s head coach in order to better the club’s draft position.
Flores’ amended suit includes allegations that the coach sent a memo regarding Ross’ supposed bribery to other team executives in 2019.