A former Houston Texans employee has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the team, alleging that Brian Gaine, in his role as general manager, targeted African American employees to be fired.
Texans deny allegation
Jeff Pope, who was the Texans’ security coordinator for two years, filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
He was dismissed by the Texans on May 8.
Gaine was unexpectedly fired last Friday.
“We have just been made aware of Mr. Pope’s claim,” the Texans said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday evening. “We do not comment on pending litigation. The Houston Texans do not tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind.”
Amy Palcic, the Texans vice president of communications, said that Pope’s suit did not play a role in Gaine’s dismissal.
‘We are alleging it was on the basis of race’
Via the team’s 2018 media guide, Pope, who is black, joined Houston as an intern in 2016. In 2017, he was named security coordinator.
In that role, he worked with the director of security in “implementing security policies and procedures for all club-related events, including practices, team travel, stadium security and all aspects of game day.”
Pope first worked with vice president of security Emmett Baylor III. Baylor, who is also black, joined the Texans as head of security in 2012 but was replaced last year.
Pope’s attorney N. Lucy Chukwurah explained why the decision was made to file the lawsuit.
“My client was terminated; we are alleging it was clearly on the basis of race by Mr. Gaine, who was recently terminated by the Texans,” Chukwurah said. “My client was offered a severance. He came to me about negotiating and asked if he should sign it. I found there was more there. I wondered why he was being offered a severance.
“We discussed what his options were and filed the EEOC discrimination complaint. Prior to doing so, we got in contact with the Texans about negotiating and at least giving him a severance package that's fair. They declined to engage in that process.
“I was going to handle this the way I handle most of my claims: quietly. When the Texans terminated Mr. Gaine, that caught my attention. They terminated him a few days after they spoke with their counsel. I found that to be unusual.”
Pope said the reason he was given for his termination was his lack of experience in law enforcement. Before joining the Texans, he had been a recruiting assistant for the University of Houston football team and worked at Rice University as an account executive/ticket sales.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Bethune-Cookman, where he was a member of the football team for four years and two-time team captain; Pope also has a master’s degree in sports management from Lasell College.
‘He was targeting all minorities in leadership’
In his lawsuit, Pope listed eight other black employees whom Gaine fired during his 17 months as general manager.
“It appeared, and I believe, that he was targeting all minorities in leadership positions and was set to replace them with non-African Americans. Which he did,” Pope wrote in the complaint.
The 2017 Texans’ media guide lists several black men in upper-level personnel positions: Rick Smith, executive vice president of football operations and general manager; Jimmy Raye III, vice president of player personnel and assistant GM; Jon Carr, director of college scouting; Larry Wright, assistant director of pro personnel; Mike Martin, assistant director of college scouting; and Frantzy Jourdain, national scout. Baylor, the vice president of security, also had a high-level position.
None of those men are with the Texans today.
Currently, the highest-ranking African American in the Texans’ front office is C.J. Leak, who is the assistant director of pro personnel.
“In short, every African American in the building understood that not too many of us could congregate or be seen interacting with each other even during lunch because it did not look good to the powers that be,” Pope alleged.”I believe I was discriminated against and terminated on the basis of my race and color.”
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