Jim Trotter, a former reporter on the NFL Network, has sued the N.F.L. and the league-owned cable channel for racial discrimination, claiming that his contract was not renewed this yr as a result of he repeatedly spoke out about professional soccer’s lack of range on the league workplace, amongst its coaches and inside its media arm.
Trotter, now a columnist for The Athletic, a sports activities web site owned by The New York Times Company, mentioned in a 53-page criticism filed in federal courtroom in Manhattan that he was let go in retaliation for, amongst different issues, publicly difficult Commissioner Roger Goodell on the league’s dedication to range.
“The N.F.L. has claimed it wants to be held accountable regarding diversity, equity and inclusion,” Trotter mentioned in a press release. “I tried to do so, and it cost me my job.”
Trotter mentioned he had beforehand raised issues about discrimination within the N.F.L. earlier than taking Goodell to process on nationwide TV in February 2023. Included amongst his claims have been what he believed have been racist feedback made to him by Dallas Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones. The lawsuit additionally mentioned that NFL Network officers didn’t deal with issues raised throughout a employees assembly about experiences of one other group proprietor’s racist remarks, although Trotter pressed for a dialogue.
In August 2020, the lawsuit claims, Trotter requested Jones about why there weren’t extra Black professionals in decision-making positions at N.F.L. groups. “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire,” Jones responded, in accordance with the criticism.
The Cowboys didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. The second group proprietor denied Trotter’s declare.
Trotter mentioned he needed to say Jones on air throughout his protection of Jon Gruden in 2021, as racist emails written by the previous Raiders coach got here to gentle, as a result of he felt there was a sample of dismissiveness towards range. The lawsuit claims that two of Trotter’s supervisors instructed him to not use Jones’s remark.
“Mr. Trotter raised his concerns on numerous occasions about the N.F.L.’s record on racial diversity and discrimination, but the N.F.L. did nothing to legitimately investigate or address his concerns — even though offensive conduct was being committed by people at the very top of the N.F.L. hierarchy,” the criticism mentioned.
A league spokesman mentioned in a press release: “We take his concerns seriously, but strongly dispute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues at NFL Media” and mentioned their determination to not renew was pushed by funds constraints.
Despite the disagreement, Trotter, who was employed by the NFL Network for 5 years, had anticipated to be provided a contract extension this spring. According to the criticism, Sandra Nunez, a vice chairman who oversees the NFL Network’s on-air expertise, instructed Trotter’s agent final November that she “could not envision any reason why his contract would not be renewed” in March 2023, and requested if he needed to increase his function.
But in February, simply earlier than the Super Bowl, Trotter requested Commissioner Goodell at a news convention concerning the league’s dedication to range and why a Black individual had by no means been employed as a senior supervisor in NFL Network’s newsroom. The query was much like one Trotter had requested Goodell on the earlier season’s Super Bowl news convention.
The subsequent day, in accordance with Trotter’s criticism, his supervisor requested considered one of his colleagues: “Why does Jim keep bringing this up?”
At the start of March, Trotter claims Nunez requested if he was “in alignment” with the N.F.L., to which he replied that he was not in alignment with a newsroom with out “Black representation in decision-making positions.” On March 24, Nunez instructed Trotter’s agent that Trotter’s contract was not being renewed.
Trotter is searching for damages to be decided at trial and the appointment of a court-ordered monitor to research the league’s “policies and practices in the hiring, retention and advancement of Black people throughout all levels of the N.F.L. organization and hierarchy.”
“The N.F.L. should be ashamed of the racial animus openly expressed by team owners and a complete lack of action by the league after being put on notice,” Doug Wigdor and David Gottlieb, Trotter’s legal professionals, mentioned in a press release.
The go well with is the newest in a spherical of authorized challenges that allege racial discrimination on the N.F.L. In 2019, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick obtained a multimillion greenback settlement after he claimed that N.F.L. groups systematically blackballed him as a result of he knelt in protest of police brutality and social injustice throughout the enjoying of the nationwide anthem.
Trotter is represented by the identical regulation agency as Brian Flores, a Black and Hispanic assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings who’s suing the league and several other groups for racially discriminating in opposition to him as he utilized for head teaching jobs. A decide dominated in March that Flores’s go well with can proceed by way of the judicial system somewhat than being moved behind closed doorways in non-public arbitration.
The league has for many years tried to extend the hiring of coaches of colour and senior group executives, with blended outcomes. The Rooney Rule, which the league launched in 2003 underneath menace of civil motion, requires groups to incorporate nonwhite candidates and ladies in interviews for open positions. Six of the league’s 32 head coaches are individuals of colour, up from 4 in 2020, however beneath the document of eight in 2018. The share of assistant coaches of colour hit a record-high 42.9 % in 2022, two proportion factors greater than in 2021.
The variety of Black group presidents and common managers has additionally elevated. Within the previous three years, 5 groups employed Black presidents, and there are eight Black common mangers, representing one-quarter of the league’s groups. As not too long ago as 2020, there have been simply two Black common managers. The first Black president of an N.F.L. group, Jason Wright of the Washington Commanders, was employed in 2020, and Sandra Douglass Morgan, president of the Las Vegas Raiders, in July 2022 grew to become the primary Black girl to carry the place.
Jenny Vrentas contributed reporting.
Source web site: www.nytimes.com