Brian Flores believes that the NFL arbitration system is a “kangaroo court” and submitted a 25-page filing on Wednesday in response to the league’s effort to force the entire case to arbitration. The Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach’s employment discrimination claims against the NFL and teams is currently in arbitration, and Flores isn’t having it.
The NFL’s inherent bias makes neutrality impossible in arbitration, the new brief claims.
From the brief’s start, plaintiffs and coaches Flores, Ray Horton, and Steve Wilks come for the procedural process of the league’s arbitration. The brief says that the NFL arbitration process “bear[s] no resemblance to a neutral judicial forum and fail[s] to comport with basic principles of fairness.”
Attorneys for former Dolphins coach Brian Flores just filed their response to the NFL's motion to shift the case into arbitration. pic.twitter.com/Hr9yB8RQcp
— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) August 31, 2022
The group believes the most substantial proof of their contention comes from the argument that the commissioner cannot be objective. Simply put, the best interest of the ommissioner is the best interest of the teams, so how can he or his office be neutral?
Flores’ attorneys filed in the Southern District of New York and are looking to convince Judge Valerie Caproni to deny the NFL’s motion to compel arbitration. But it goes deeper than that.
NFL team owners choose NFL commissioners. On August 8, 2006, current NFL commish Roger Goodell was chosen to succeed commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was retiring. Goodell made it over four finalists, winning a close vote on the fifth ballot before being unanimously approved by the owners. That unanimity indicates that Goodell is an employee of the owners under the microscope from Flores’ accusations.
“If the Court compels arbitration, scores of employers following this case, and those who learn of it, will undoubtedly change their arbitration clauses to permit the appointment of an obviously biased decision-maker,” the brief said.
Not only is Gruden suing the NFL — which has denied being the source of the email leaks that led to his ouster with the Raiders — but those emails have been used by the attorneys for former Dolphins HC Brian Flores in his racial discrimination lawsuit. pic.twitter.com/y46LiUuCsQ
— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) September 6, 2022
According to the league, the language in employment contracts and the NFL constitution preempt the claims brought by Flores and co. In the NFL, the commissioner can arbitrate football-specific disputes, and its commissioner determines if a disagreement is football-oriented.
“He is fully professionally and financially beholden to the NFL and its teams,” the brief continued. “It would be completely contrary to the NFL’s best interest — both financially, reputationally and otherwise — for there to be any finding whatsoever that the NFL or its teams engage in systemic discrimination against Black coaches.”
Goodell could also be called a witness. Flores sees this as a problem in any arbitration since the commish decides what is a football issue and will be “asked to turn over documents from his corporate and personal files” and called to testify on NFL hiring practices. Goodell can pick and choose what he feels is relevant and has no neutrality in discovery.
Compelling arguments and case-law laid out by counsel for Brian Flores, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton against the idea of having Roger Goodell serve as the arbitrator of racial discrimination claims asserted against the league and teams which employ him. 10/10 quality level. pic.twitter.com/WxoqF0pPsO
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) August 31, 2022
In layman’s terminology, Flores’ camp believes any process overseen by Goodell should be constituted a “kangaroo court.” Flores also contends that the league has no voice in the employment contracts between coaches and teams. Unlike players, coaches aren’t in a union or governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated with the league. Since an outside party can’t enforce a contract negotiated between a coach and a team, Flores questions how the NFL believes it can arbitrate its claims against teams.
Brian Flores is on his crusade for social justice and, like Colin Kaepernick, has evolved the narrative of accountability for the league.
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