NFL seeks arbitration for Flores racial discrimination lawsuit

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NEW YORK – The NFL and six of its teams have sought arbitration in the lawsuit that accuses them of engaging in racial discrimination. If the league’s request is granted, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will serve as the arbiter.

The league and teams filed paperwork Tuesday night with a judge presiding over a lawsuit filed by Brian Flores after he was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The NFL said the employment contracts with teams signed by Flores and other coaches contain provisions that require arbitration of all disputes.

Flores now works as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two other black coaches in the league – Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – have joined Flores’ lawsuit, in which he alleges the league engages in racist hiring practices despite his claims to the contrary.

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The NFL has insisted the lawsuit is “without merit”, although Goodell said before the Super Bowl that “all allegations, whether based on racism or discrimination or the integrity of our game, all of these were very disturbing to me.”

A Manhattan federal judge is unlikely to rule on the arbitration issue until late summer at the earliest.

David Gottlieb, a lawyer for the coaches, said Wednesday that moving the case to arbitration secrecy was in effect “depriving our clients of their rights”.

“Arbitration privatizes the judiciary,” Gottlieb said. “All we ask for is an open and fair process.”

He said attorneys for Flores and the other two coaches would argue that the lawsuit belongs in federal court because any agreement calling for arbitration was signed with the teams rather than the league.

In March, Flores’ attorney Douglas Wigdor wrote a letter to Goodell, saying “the arbitration is not transparent” and urging him to let the lawsuit remain before a judge.

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In its filings, the NFL argued that the discrimination lawsuit claims were not properly before the Manhattan court because multiple arbitration agreements signed by the coaches require arbitration.

The league also defended its record against discrimination, saying “diversity, fairness and inclusion are core NFL values.” He cited his implementation nearly two decades ago of the “Rooney Rule,” which now requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for any head coaching opening and at least one in-person candidate.

In his February lawsuit, Flores said the league remained “riddled with racism” and continued to deny black coaching positions on racial grounds, making it difficult for them to become general managers, head coaches, coordinators. offensive and defensive and quarterback coaches in particular.

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His lawsuit sought class-action status and unspecified damages. In their filings, the league — along with the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans — insisted the deals arbitration will require coaches to assert their claims individually.

The filing came hours before a House committee released a document alleging that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder conducted a ‘ghost investigation’ to discredit former employees who claimed to have been victimized. sexual harassment at work. a pretext to obtain phone records and e-mails.

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