NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — The NFL and six of its teams have filed a lawsuit in arbitration alleging they were involved in racial discrimination. If the league’s request is granted, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be the referee.
The league and teams filed paperwork late Tuesday night with the judge presiding over the lawsuit filed by Brian Flores after he was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The NFL said team employment contracts signed by Flores and other coaches contain clauses requiring all disputes to be resolved by arbitration.
Flores is currently an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two other black league coaches – Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – have joined Flores’ lawsuit in which he alleges the league is using racist hiring practices despite claims to the contrary.
The NFL insists the lawsuit is “without merit,” though Goodell said ahead of the Super Bowl that “any allegations based on racism, discrimination, or the fairness of our game really bothered me. ”
A federal judge in Manhattan is unlikely to rule on the arbitration issue until at least the end of the summer.
David Gottlieb, the coaches’ lawyer, said on Wednesday that secrecy is effectively “depriving our clients of their rights.”
“Arbitration privatizes the judiciary,” Gottlieb said. “All we ask for is an open and honest process.”
He said lawyers for Flores and two other coaches would argue that the lawsuit belonged in federal court because any agreements requiring arbitration were signed with the teams, not the league.
In March, Flores’ lawyer Douglas Wigdor wrote a letter to Goodell stating that “arbitration is non-transparent” and urging him to leave the lawsuit to a judge.
In its filings, the NFL argued that the discrimination lawsuits were not properly adjudicated in Manhattan court because numerous arbitration agreements signed by coaches require arbitration.
The league also defended its anti-discrimination reputation, stating that “diversity, equality, and inclusion are core NFL values.” He cited the implementation nearly two decades ago of the Rooney Rules, which now requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for any head coach vacancy and at least one candidate in person.
In his February lawsuit, Flores said the league is still “rife with racism” and continues to deny black coaches positions on racial grounds, making it difficult for them to become general managers, head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, and quarterback coaches in particular. .
His lawsuit sought class action status and unspecified damages. In filings, the league — along with the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans — insisted that arbitration agreements would require coaches to pursue their claims on a case-by-case basis.
The filing was filed hours before a House committee released a document alleging that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” to discredit former employees who alleged sexual harassment in the workplace. The document says that private detectives were hired to intimidate witnesses, and the overseas lawsuit was used as an excuse to obtain phone records and emails.
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