NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL and six of its teams have filed for arbitration in the lawsuit that alleges they engaged in racial discrimination. If the league's request is successful, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be the arbitrator.
The league and the teams filed papers late Tuesday with a judge presiding over a lawsuit that was filed by Brian Flores after he was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The NFL said employment agreements with teams signed by Flores and other coaches contain provisions that require the arbitration of all disputes.
Flores now works as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two other Black coaches in the league — Steve Wilks and Ray Horton — joined Flores' lawsuit, in which he alleges that the league engages in racist hiring practices despite its claims to the contrary.
The NFL has insisted the lawsuit is "without merit," although Goodell said before the Super Bowl that "all of the allegations, whether they were based on racism or discrimination or the integrity of our game, all of those to me were very disturbing."
A Manhattan federal judge is unlikely to rule on the arbitration issue until late summer at the earliest.
David Gottlieb, a lawyer for the coaches, said Wednesday that moving the case to the secrecy of arbitration was, in effect, "stripping our clients of their rights."
"Arbitration is privatizing the judicial branch," Gottlieb said. "All we're asking for is an open and fair process."
He said lawyers for Flores and the other two coaches will argue that the lawsuit belongs in federal court because any agreements calling for arbitration were signed with the teams rather than the league.