May 20, 2022

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NFL’s response to Brian Flores lawsuit should be…

2 min read
Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins

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On February 1, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores turned the NFL upside down with a landmark class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the hiring, compensation, and retention of Black coaches. The battle will soon be officially joined by the NFL.

Typically, a defendant in a civil case has 30 days to respond. Those deadlines can be extended. Requests for extra time usually are granted as a matter of course, given that the lawyers representing the plaintiff may eventually need another week or two at some point, too.

Still, with the lawsuit having been filed 34 days ago, the window for a formal response is open. Eventually, the NFL and the three specifically-named teams (Dolphins, Giants, and Broncos) will file and serve their opening paperwork.

The options are simple. Answer the allegations in the complaint or file a motion attacking the case in some way.

The biggest question is whether the league will try to force some or all of the claims into mandatory arbitration, under the standard clause in every coaching contract compelling all disputes to be resolved by the Commissioner or his designee. Arguably, this would apply only to the claims made against the Dolphins, since Flores worked only for the Dolphins. But the NFL isn’t subtle when it comes to matters like this; the league usually swings the arbitration bat as hard as it can, trying to force as many lawsuits as possible into a procedure that stacks the deck in its favor — and that pushes the controversy from the public courts into a private process.

As we’ve previously mentioned, the league’s supposed commitment to solving the deeper issues raised by the Flores lawsuit doesn’t mesh with an effort to keep an independent tribunal from hearing the evidence and the arguments and making a decision as to whether rights were violated. While that nuance may be lost on a broad audience, it’s important to remember that, indeed, any attempt to compel arbitration is tantamount to an effort to brush the situation under the rug.

Ultimately, the league may try to blame any such strategy on the advice of its lawyers. But the NFL calls the shots. If the NFL believes the best way to fix this problem is to have the Flores case handled by a third party, not trying to force arbitration is the way to do it.

We’ll see whether that’s what happens. Sooner than later, the responses will be filed and, at least for now, the statements made and arguments articulated will be available for all to read, to understand, and to scrutinize.

NFL’s response to Brian Flores lawsuit should be coming soon