May 6, 2022 - Sports

Brian Flores' NFL lawsuit could go into forced arbitration

Brian Flores
Brian Flores. Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brian Flores' lawsuit regarding racist hiring practices against the NFL and six of its teams could be forced into arbitration.

Why it matters: Forced arbitration is a strategy by the NFL to keep proceedings private, and if it goes this route then the arbitrator in one of the highest-profile cases of racial discrimination in league history would be commissioner Roger Goodell.

How it works: The NFL's constitution — as well as employees' contracts — stipulates that such matters be resolved privately whenever possible, in part because pre-trial discovery could uncover damaging information.

  • But the optics aren't great when the arbitrator is the same person whose job is to protect the league's interests and whose gargantuan salary is determined by a committee comprising team owners.

State of play: Lawyers for both sides met Monday at a hearing in New York for the first time since the suit was filed in February.

  • The hearing came a month after two more coaches joined Flores' suit, and two weeks after the NFL requested the case either be dismissed or sent to arbitration because the league believes it lacks legal merit.
  • Judge Valerie Caproni felt the sides should settle, but they declined. Now, she'll determine whether or not to send the case to arbitration.

What they're saying: "With forced arbitration, there won't be a jury of my peers who will hear my claims, which is one of the most important and fundamental rights we have in this country," Flores said in March.

  • Flores' attorney, Douglas Wigdor, on Monday said this showed "unconscionable bias," also arguing that any allegations from when Flores wasn't under contract wouldn't be subject to the arbitration clause.
  • The NFL's attorney, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, countered that the claims still fall under the league's arbitration provisions and that it will "set up a neutral process."

What's next: The NFL has until June 21 to file a motion to compel arbitration, the coaches have until July 22 to respond, and the NFL has until Aug. 5 to provide its final reply brief.

In related news ... The NFL will hold a diversity seminar later this month during its annual spring owners meeting for 64 prospective head coach and GM candidates, according to a memo obtained Wednesday by ESPN.

Go deeper