Former NFL Network journalist Jim Trotter filed a retaliation lawsuit against the NFL on Tuesday alleging his contract was not renewed because he called out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the league's lack of diversity.
The lawsuit, which features a detailed timeline of Trotter's termination, also accuses Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula of making discriminatory comments when asked about player protests and the league's diversity efforts.
The lawsuit accuses Pegula of stating Black players should "go back to Africa" after being asked about player protests against racial injustice. Trotter's lawsuit alleges Pegula responded to a question about the protests by stating, "If the Black players don't like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is." Trotter claims he raised complaints over that comment, though the league allegedly did not take action.
Pegula released a statement Tuesday calling that allegation "absolutely false."
The full statement reads:
"The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter's complaint is absolutely false. I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind. Racism has no place in our society and I am personally disgusted that my name is associated with this complaint."
Trotter also accuses Jones of stating, "If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire" when asked about the league's poor track record of hiring Black professionals. Trotter claims he raised complaints over Jones' comment, but the league failed to take action.
Jones also responded to the allegations in a statement Tuesday. He referenced a conversation with Will McClay, who is Black, in his response.
"Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL," Jones said in the statement. "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."
McClay was hired to the Cowboys personnel department as assistant director of player personnel in 2013. He has been promoted twice since then, most recently to his current role in 2017.
Jim Trotter accuses NFL of retaliation
The lawsuit alleges Trotter was let go by the NFL after he asked Goodell about the "NFL's record of race discrimination and lack of diversity." Trotter, who previously worked for NFL Network, claims he was in good standing with the league last November, when NFL vice president of on-air talent management Sandy Nunez reportedly told Trotter's agent there wasn't "any reason why his [Mr. Trotter’s] contract would not be renewed."
That allegedly changed after Trotter asked Goodell about the NFL's diversity efforts during a news conference in February. A few weeks later, Nunez allegedly asked Trotter if he was "in alignment" with the NFL. Trotter responded by saying he was “not in alignment with a newsroom that does not have Black representation in decision-making positions." Trotter claims he stopped receiving assignments from the league in March, and expressed he was being retaliated against to Nunez. In late March, Nunez told Trotter's agent that Trotter's contract would not be renewed.
Jim Trotter's lawsuit focuses on NFL's diversity numbers
The lawsuit highlights what it perceives to be a poor track record by the NFL when it comes to diversity hires. It mentions there has never been a Black majority owner and cites just eight Black general managers and three NFL coaches who identify as Black.
The lawsuit also alleges two out of 12 NFL employees at the executive vice-president level and above are Black and mentions there are "no Black managers, no Black copy editors and no Black full-time employees on the news desk" in the NFL Media newsroom.
It continues, "All of these numbers stand in stark contrast to a league in which 60-70% of the players are Black."
Trotter is seeking to force the NFL to change its "discriminatory and retaliatory practices and comply with the law." The lawsuit aims to have a court-ordered review of the NFL's hiring practices that will implement changes into how the league hires "Black people throughout all levels of the NFL organization and hierarchy." It also calls for a full-scale investigation of discriminatory and retaliatory comments made by people in power within the NFL, including team owners.