By Larry Neumeister – The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – A federal judge said Tuesday he would not change his decision to allow the league and three teams to go to trial over allegations that NFL coach Brian Flores and other black coaches faced discrimination.
Judge Valerie Caproni’s written judgment in Manhattan federal court came after both sides of the lawsuit asked her to reconsider her March ruling.
There, the judge ruled that the claims filed by the two coaches, who joined the lawsuit after the Flores lawsuit was filed early last year, must go to arbitration, likely with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acting as arbitrator.
She said Flores could move forward with his claims against the league and three teams: the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Houston Texans.
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In February 2022, Flores sued the league and several teams for “pervasive racism” in the hiring and promotion of black coaches, particularly black coaches.
In his sentencing in March, Caproni wrote that the coaches’ descriptions of their experiences with racism in the league, which “has a long history of systemic discrimination against black players, coaches and managers,” were extremely disturbing.
“The obvious majority of professional football players are black, but very few coaches are black,” she said.
She said it was “hard to understand” that the 32-team league, whose roster is about 70% black, had just one black head coach at the time Flores filed the lawsuit.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Caproni rejected the NFL’s efforts to argue that Flores was unable to bring any allegations to trial because the contract Flores signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year contained language that applied retroactively to allegations against the NFL team.
She said the copy of the contract the NFL gave her before the March ruling had a blank space for Goodell’s signature, making the contract “non-valid and binding” unless signed by all parties.
The judge rejected the signed copy filed after her sentencing, stating that “a motion for reconsideration is not a means of repairing the hole in the record caused by neglected evidence.”
Caproni also rejected claims by Flores’ attorneys who argued that the arbitration agreement between the NFL and some coaches was “unconscionable” because Goodell would be a biased arbitrator.
He said lawyers would have to wait until arbitration to determine whether their concerns were valid and whether Mr. Goodell had “fairly swayed to prove their case.”
She said she wanted lawyers “to develop specific rules across the board to protect them from potential arbitrator biases that may never surface.”
Lawyers for both sides and an NFL spokesperson did not immediately comment.
After filing a lawsuit last year, Flores said he believed he was putting his beloved coaching career in jeopardy by suing the NFL, but said his success in combating systemic racism within the league would be worth it for generations to come.
In March, a judge noted that Flores was recently hired as the Minnesota Vikings’ new defensive coordinator.
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