Veteran sports journalist Jim Trotter has filed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the NFL and the NFL Network. The lawsuit alleges that Trotter lost his job earlier this year as an NFL Network reporter after challenging the league and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, about its lack of diversity in coaching and management. The federal lawsuit Tuesday in New York seeking damages and an “award of equitable relief necessary to force the NFL to remedy and change its discriminatory and retaliatory practices.” The 53-page-complaint also accuses NFL owners Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Terry Pegula (Buffalo Bills) of making racially charged statements in 2020, which both owners denied on Tuesday.
Trotter, who is Black, said that while on the field before the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in August 2020, he asked why NFL teams have so few Black decision makers. He alleges that Jones responded: “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.” The lawsuit also described a conversation in September 2020 between a reporter an Pegula about social activism by NFL players and support for Black Lives Matter. According to Trotter’s complaint, the reporter alleged then that Pegula said that “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.” Trotter said he was told not to mention Jones’ comments on-air and that Pegula’s alleged comments were “swept under the rug” by the league.
Jerry Jones responded to the accusations in a statement: “Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL. The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate.” Terry Pegula also issued a statement saying: “The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false. I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind. Racism has no place in our society , and I a personally disgusted that my name is associated with this complaint.”
The NFL said in their own statement that they strongly dispute Trotter’s allegations: “Mr. Trotter’s departure from NFL Media was one of many difficult decisions – similar to decisions recently made by many other media organizations — to address a challenging economy and a changing media environment. Jim was one of many employees who were unfortunately affected by these business decisions. We appreciate Jim’s five years of service at NFL Media and wish him much success in his new role. The NFL has made significant strides in improving diversity and inclusion and, while we acknowledge there is always more work to be done, we are committed to continuing that progress.”
Trotter is represented by the Wigdor law firm, which also has represented former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in his racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.
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