NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — An attorney for a black NFL coach who sued the league alleging racist hiring practices told a judge Monday that arbitration is the wrong way to resolve the lawsuit because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell There will be mediators and that will be the “unconscious.”
Attorney Douglas Vigdor said the league was trying to force “behind closed doors” the claims of Brian Flores and two other black coaches. No coach was present for the Manhattan federal court hearing.
This was the first hearing of the lawsuit filed by Flores in February.When he claimed the league was “rife with racism,” even when the NFL publicly condemns it.
Flores was fired as head coach by the Miami Dolphins in January, leading the team to a 24–25 record in three years, including two straight winning seasons, most recently 9–8. The record had knocked him out of the playoffs. He has since been hired as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Two other coaches, Steve Wilkes and Ray Horton, joined his trial last month.
There are currently six minority head coaches in the NFL, a league where the majority of players are Black.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who represented the NFL, told Judge Valerie E. Caproni that the league believes that all claims in the lawsuit should be taken to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the employment agreements.
Vigdor said the league demonstrated “this unconscious bias of the arbitrator” when the NFL said the claims in the lawsuit were without merit after they were first filed. He said it would not be appropriate for Goodell to arbitrate claims after the league’s teams earned $120 million over the past two years.
Lynch said he invited the three coaches and their lawyers to meet with league officials to discuss “important issues” surrounding racial inclusion that the NFL wants to address.
“Today, they refused to meet us,” she said.
Vigdor said he declined the league’s invitation to discuss racial issues because there would be no magistrate judge or judge present.
For now, the judge has kept the trial on a slow track, with a schedule set for August to submit written arguments about whether mediation is needed.
Once Vigdor formally informs the judge that he wants to seek permission to collect evidence surrounding the league’s arbitration practices before resolving the issue, that program is likely to be delayed further.
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