AP

Judge shortens road to decide NFL racial discrimination suit

Aug 4, 2022, 9:30 AM | Updated: Aug 5, 2022, 3:10 pm

FILE - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media after the close of the NFL owners' meeti...

FILE - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media after the close of the NFL owners' meeting on March 29, 2022, at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla. A judge on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, quickened the time it will take to rule whether Goodell gets to decide the merits of racial discrimination claims made by Black coaches against the league and its teams, saying that it appears an effort to gather more evidence is a try at “an impermissible fishing expedition.” (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge on Thursday made it likely she’ll rule in weeks rather than months whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gets to decide the merits of racial discrimination claims made by Black coaches against the league and its teams, saying an effort to gather more evidence seems like “an impermissible fishing expedition.”

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni said in a written ruling that lawyers for coaches Brian Flores, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton cannot gather additional evidence from defendants to support their arguments that the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court should remain in court rather than be sent to arbitration.

Her ruling makes it likely that a decision on whether to move the case to arbitration or let it remain in Manhattan federal court will be decided in weeks rather than months.

“Because Plaintiffs should know whether they entered into any other contracts or agreements that would affect their agreement to arbitrate, the Court can only assume that they are attempting to embark on an impermissible fishing expedition,” Caproni wrote.

Still, the judge said lawyers for the coaches may well be able to argue that the proposed arbitrator is so biased against them that the motion to compel arbitration should not be granted, but they do not need discovery to do so. In legal cases, “discovery” references evidence such as emails and text messages that lawyers try to get from their opponents to strengthen their arguments.

Flores, who was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins and is now an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, filed the lawsuit in February, saying the league was “rife with racism” even as it publicly condemns it. The other coaches later joined the lawsuit, which sought unspecified damages and class-action status.

The NFL and six of its teams say the lawsuit they maintain is “without merit” is required to go to arbitration, where Goodell would be the arbitrator, according to the terms laid out in employment contracts and the NFL’s constitution.

Caproni wrote that courts have not historically allowed lawyers to gather evidence prior to deciding whether a case is required to go to arbitration.

“An agreement to arbitrate is binding on the parties unless the agreement is invalid under state contract law,” she wrote. “Thus, on a motion to compel arbitration, the Court’s analysis is generally limited to determining whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate, whether one party has failed to perform its duties under that agreement, and whether the agreement, properly interpreted, encompasses the dispute at hand.”

Attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, representing Flores, said in a statement that they are “confident that we will defeat the efforts of the NFL to move this matter into a private and confidential arbitration behind closed doors.”

“It is obvious that the NFL is trying to hide behind this process and avoid public scrutiny of the racial discrimination and retaliation claims we have brought. If they are confident in their defenses, they should let the process play out in court so the general public can see,” the lawyers said.

In Thursday’s ruling, Caproni instructed lawyers for the coaches to submit written arguments against arbitration by Aug. 19 and told the NFL and its teams to respond by Aug. 26.

Her decision came just days after the NFL released the results of its investigation into allegations by Flores that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered $100,000 a game to purposely lose games.

Investigators said the team didn’t intentionally lose and neither Ross nor anyone from the team told Flores to purposely lose. And investigators added that any $100,000-a-game offer “was not intended or taken to be a serious offer.” Investigators also found Ross several times during the season expressed his belief that draft position should take priority over won-loss record.

The NFL suspended Ross and fined him $1.5 million for having impermissible communications with Tom Brady when he was under contract with the New England Patriots and with Sean Payton before he announced his decision to retire as coach of the New Orleans Saints.

In a statement, Ross had called Flores’ allegations “false, malicious and defamatory.”

Lawyers for the NFL and its teams did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

4 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

4 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

7 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

11 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

21 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Judge shortens road to decide NFL racial discrimination suit