Ex-Cardinals executive accuses owner Michael Bidwill of harassment, discrimination, cheating

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell () in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill is centered in some pretty serious allegations. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Former Arizona Cardinals vice president Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against owner Michael Bidwill to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and its allegations are reminiscent of those against Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

McDonough reportedly opted to make a geographically closer comparison, writing that "Bidwill's widespread workplace misconduct is significantly worse than the misbehavior of former crosstown Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver."

ESPN's Adam Schefter obtained a copy of the complaint, which accuses Bidwill of a range of misconduct, including cheating, discrimination and harassment.

McDonough was the Cardinals' vice president of player personnel from 2014 to 2019. In the claim, he alleged that potential opportunities for his NFL career's advancement disappeared after he refused to go along with Bidwill's cheating. McDonough is reportedly seeking damages for emotional distress and breach of contract.

Alleged burner phone scheme

According to McDonough, Bidwill retaliated against him with a demotion after he opposed a plan to circumvent former general manager Steve Keim's 2018 suspension. As Keim served a five-game suspension for "extreme" driving under the influence during the Cardinals training camp, McDonough claims Bidwill forced he and then-Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks to communicate with the general manager through burner phones.

The filing said that McDonough expressed his and Wilks' hesitations to beak the rules, which reportedly resulted in McDonough being yelled and cursed at before being written up for "insubordination" by Bidwill. According to Schefter, McDonough said he still has the phone, which allegedly contains proof of the cheating scandal.

Arizona finished 3-13 in the 2018 season and Bidwill fired Wilks. McDonough accused Bidwill of sabotaging Wilks' next NFL head coaching opportunity. McDonough also claimed Bidwill continued to "demote and harass" him since then.

Cardinals' external public relations adviser Jim McCarthy addressed McDonough's claims in an extensive statement Tuesday and claimed that another executive was to blame for the burner phone scheme. They added that Bidwill took "swift action" to stop the prohibited communication.

"We are reluctantly obliged to provide a public response along with broader context for some disappointing and irresponsible actions by Terry McDonough," McCarthy said. "Claims he has made in an arbitration filing are wildly false, reckless, and an opportunistic ploy for financial gain."

Alleged mistreatment of minority employees

According to Schefter, McDonough's motivation is to stop Bidwill's mistreatment and encourage other employees to speak out. McDonough said in his filing that Bidwill "created an environment of fear for minority employees," citing alleged mistreatment of a Black employee and an incident where he allegedly berated two pregnant women to the point of tears.

In the statement, the Cardinals maintained that Bidwell has no racial animosity and called the rest of McDonough's allegations of mistreatment "subjective."

"Our position was consistent with many efforts we've made to accommodate Terry during his time with the team, despite difficulties in his personal life and his often volatile demeanor toward colleagues," the statement from McCarthy said. "That's why we are saddened to see that Terry is now lashing out at our organization with disparagements and threats that are absurdly at odds with the facts. This unnecessary and vindictive action by Terry was intended to malign his co-workers, our owner Michael Bidwill, and our team with outlandish accusations."

Under the NFL's dispute resolution procedural guidelines, the Cardinals have 20 days to respond to McDonough's claims. Then Goodell will "determine whether the dispute is football-oriented" and if the dispute is subject to arbitration.

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