On Tuesday, September 12, former NFL Media reporter Jim Trotter filed a lawsuit against the league arising from its decision to not renew his contract. The NFL's official response to the civil complaint is due next Friday, November 17.
That deadline likely is the result of an agreement among the lawyers, since the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would have required a response at some point in the middle of October. It's a common development at the outset of any lawsuit. The lawyers representing the defendant(s) ask for a little extra time to respond. The lawyers representing the plaintiff(s) agree, both to not be jerks and because they might need a similar courtesy later in the litigation.
Trotter's primary allegation is that he tried for multiple years to improve diversity and representation in the newsroom, that such efforts were protected against discrimination or retaliation by federal law, and that the NFL's decision not to continue his employment after his contract expired was motivated in whole or in part by his protected activities.
The question becomes whether the NFL will officially answer the allegations of the complaint or file some sort of a motion to dismiss the case. It's a high bar at this stage of the proceedings; basically, the argument would be that, even if everything alleged in the complaint is true, the case can't proceed.
Typically, the NFL looks for a way to force any claim against it into arbitration. And not just any arbitration. The league likes to force cases into arbitration ultimately controlled by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In plenty of cases, the league prevails because the relevant contracts contain language allowing it. As PFT reported in the aftermath of Trotter's termination, his contract contained no such provision. That makes him free to sue in court, with no obligation to submit to arbitration generally, or to the NFL's secret, rigged kangaroo court specifically.
By next weekend, we'll get the first glimpse into the NFL's strategy. Unless, of course, there's another extension of the deadline. Or unless the NFL makes Trotter a settlement offer he won't refuse, in lieu of facing him in court.
Does any of this matter to the endless stream of bright, shiny objects that the league will continue to offer up through the Super Bowl? No. Does it go to the heart of the manner in which the current stewards of the game of professional football are doing business when it comes to how certain employees are treated? Absolutely.