A former NFL media journalist is accusing the league of refusing to address long-standing institutional discrimination, saying his contract was not renewed because he repeatedly spoke out about equity and racial injustice. Had expressed concern.
In making his allegations in a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York City federal court, Jim Trotter also cited Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula for making racially insensitive comments. Trotter said those comments and the concerns he raised with league officials, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, regarding the lack of diversity among NFL media personnel were not addressed.
“The NFL has claimed it wants to be accountable with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion. I tried to do that, and it cost me my job,” Trotter said in a statement released by his law firm, Vigdor. “I’m filing this lawsuit because I can’t complain about things that are wrong if I’m not willing to fight for what’s right.”
Trotter is black and now works for The Athletic after previously being a reporter for the NFL Network, whose contract was not renewed in March.
The NFL issued a statement denying Trotter’s allegations.
“We share Jim Trotter’s passion for quality journalism produced and supported in a diverse and inclusive environment,” the NFL said. “We take his concerns seriously, but strongly refute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues in the NFL media.”
The NFL stated that Trotter’s contract was not renewed as a result of business decisions made to address “the challenging economy and changing media environment”.
Pegula also said in a statement that the allegations leveled against him are false. “I am horrified that someone would link me to such an allegation,” he said. “Racism has no place in our society and I am personally disappointed that my name has been linked to this complaint.”
Jones released a statement that said: “Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL. Jim Trotter’s account of a conversation he had with me and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay three years ago is far from accurate.
Trotter said he was discriminated against based on his race. He alleged that the NFL ignored and fostered a hostile work environment by firing him.
He is seeking to establish a court-ordered monitor to investigate and review the NFL’s policies and implement necessary changes on the hiring, retention and advancement of Black employees throughout the organization.
The lawsuit said NFL Media does not have a single Black person in a managerial position or on its news desk.
Trotter expressed his concerns about the lack of Black people in decision-making positions to Goodell at several news conferences, including the league’s Super Bowl celebration in February.
In a longer reply, Goodell said in part: “I think it’s not a single answer, Jim, the same responsibility falls on all of us in the NFL, and we have to be the ones that make this change, and we We must ensure that we deeply diversify our NFL and make the NFL an inclusive and diverse organization that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed.
Trotter said that the next day, his direct supervisor, Ali Bhanpuri, asked one of Trotter’s coworkers: “Why does Jim keep bringing this up?”
NFL Media noted that its three most recent senior hires are people of color, two of whom are Black and the other Hispanic. And eight of nine of its most recent on-air hires represent diverse backgrounds, seven of whom are Black.
Trotter’s attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and David Gottlieb, issued a joint statement that said: “The NFL should be ashamed of the racial animus openly expressed by team owners and the complete lack of action by the league after notice was given. “
Trotter implicated Jones by citing a conversation he had with the Cowboys owner in 2020 over the issue of the lack of Black professionals in decision-making positions in the NFL. Jones’ response, he said, was: “If blacks feel any way, they should buy their own team and hire whoever they want.”
Trotter said that his superiors had ordered him not to mention Jones’ comments in his reporting.
Trotter then referenced a comment reportedly made by Pegula during a dinner with reporters on the issue of players’ protests against racial injustice. Although Trotter was not present, he said these comments were raised by a colleague of his during an NFL media Zoom call in 2020.
A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that the NFL investigated Pegula’s alleged comments by interviewing everyone present at the dinner, and could not find anyone else who recalled the comments being made.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not disclosed the contents of its investigation.