Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula tied to racist remark in Jim Trotter lawsuit

Veteran sports journalist Jim Trotter has filed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the NFL and the NFL Network, alleging that he lost his job earlier this year as an NFL Network reporter after challenging the league and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, about its lack of diversity in coaching and management.

Trotter filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday in New York seeking damages and an “award of equitable relief necessary to force the NFL to remedy and change its discriminatory and retaliatory practices.” He is represented by the Wigdor law firm, which also has represented former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in his racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.

His 53-page-complaint also accuses two NFL owners of making racially charged statements in 2020 — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula, which they denied Tuesday.

What were the allegations against Terry Pegula and Jerry Jones?

In August 2020, Trotter said he was on the field before the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers when he said he asked why NFL teams have so few Black decision-makers.

According to the lawsuit, Jones finally responded: “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.”

Jones responded Tuesday with a statement.

“Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL," he said. "The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate."

NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter at a press conference at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023 in Phoenix, Ariz.
NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter at a press conference at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023 in Phoenix, Ariz.

About a month later, in September 2020, another NFL Media reporter described a conversation he had with Pegula about social activism by NFL players and support for Black Lives Matter.

According to Trotter's complaint, this reporter shared his account in a Zoom meeting with other NFL Media employees and alleged that Pegula said, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”

Trotter, who is Black, said he objected to these comments but said he was told not to mention Jones’ comments on-air and that Pegula’s alleged comments were “swept under the rug” by the league.

Pegula also issued a statement Tuesday.

“The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false,” Pegula said. “I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind. Racism has no place in our society , and I a personally disgusted that my name is associated with this complaint.”

The Pegulas' Rochester ties

In July 2018, Terry and Kim Pegula’s Pegula Sports and Entertainment took over management of Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial from previous operator SMG.

The Pegulas also own the Rochester Americans hockey team and the Rochester Knighthawks lacrosse team.

Kim Pegula, who is recovering from cardiac arrest she suffered in June 2021 and has stepped back from her professional role, grew up in Fairport.

More: Kim Pegula visits Buffalo Bills training camp

What is the NFL's response?

The NFL also issued a statement that said it takes his concerns seriously but strongly disputes his specific allegations.

“Mr. Trotter’s departure from NFL Media was one of many difficult decisions — similar to decisions recently made by many other media organizations — to address a challenging economy and a changing media environment,” the statement said. “Jim was one of many employees who were unfortunately affected by these business decisions. We appreciate Jim’s five years of service at NFL Media and wish him much success in his new role. The NFL has made significant strides in improving diversity and inclusion and, while we acknowledge there is always more work to be done, we are committed to continuing that progress.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter Marcia Greenwood contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula tied to racist remark in Trotter suit