The NFL is seeking to move Flores’ lawsuit to arbitration

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The NFL on Tuesday filed a motion in federal court to force Brian Flores’ class action lawsuit against the league and several teams, in which he and two other coaches claim racial discrimination in their hiring practices, into arbitration.

The application was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and included edited contracts for all coaches listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit – Flores, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton. The filing also includes a copy of the NFL’s constitution and bylaws.

The NFL claimed in its application that all three coaches in their signed contracts agreed to arbitrate any claim against the teams that hired them, and that “the NFL Constitution’s arbitration clauses, which the plaintiffs agreed upon, expressly cover claims involving two or more member clubs and requirements between any coach and any member club – just the case here. “

The NFL also argued in its application that these signed contracts also force any claim against the league for arbitration, and that the Supreme Court’s precedent requires each man to decide his claims on an individual basis.

Flores, who filed his lawsuit in February, also claimed that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $ 100,000 per year. losses during the 2019 season, his first with the team, to improve his draft position. In its proposal filed Tuesday, the NFL stated that this is also not a matter for the federal courts to rule on, writing: “Courts are particularly reluctant to interfere in such cases because the internal standards of professional sports leagues are not necessarily well known. ” to the courts and, of course, require some expertise in their application. ‘ To support this argument, the NFL quoted Charles O. Finley & Co. v. Kuhn (1978) and Crouch v. NASCAR (1988) as a precedent.

Douglas Wigdor, one of Flores’ lawyers, had argued before a judge in May that arbitration is the wrong way to resolve the lawsuit. Flores’ lawyers also said in a statement issued in April, when the NFL first expressed its intention to file a motion to force arbitration, that it would eliminate the much-needed transparency of the case.

Flores’ lawyers want the case to remain in court for a jury trial, where it will eventually go to trial, and each side can see relevant documents that the other has.

It is unlikely that a federal judge in Manhattan will rule on the arbitration issue before the end of the summer at the earliest.

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

“Arbitration is to privatize the judiciary,” Gottlieb said. “Everything we ask for is an open and fair process.”

He said the coaches’ lawyers will argue that the lawsuit against the league belongs in a federal court because all agreements requiring arbitration were signed with the teams instead of the league.

Flores claimed discrimination from the Dolphins for his firing in January and from the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Houston Texans – teams he interviewed for the job of head coach but was not hired by. Flores claimed he received “sham” interviews from the Broncos and Giants to meet the Rooney Rule’s requirement to interview minority coaches. The Texans were later added to the trial after Flores claimed the team “avenged” him by not hiring him because he filed his lawsuit.

The Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans were added to the lawsuit in April when Wilks and Horton joined the lawsuit. Wilks claims he “did not get a meaningful chance of success” by the Cardinals, who fired him after a season in which Arizona finished 3-13. Horton was skipped for the Titans job in favor of Mike Mularkey in 2016.

Mularkey, who had been the team’s interim head coach for the last nine games of the 2015 season, said in a 2020 podcast that the Titans’ owners told him he would get the job before completing the interview process, including interviews with two minority candidates.

Flores is currently employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach. Wilks is currently employed by the Carolina Panthers as coordinator of defensive passing and secondary coach. Edited copies of Flores’ contract with the Steelers and Wilks’ with the Panthers were also attached to the NFL’s application, as well as Flores’ contract with the New England Patriots, the team he was hired by before being hired by the Dolphins.

Horton is now retired.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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