The NFL has a big problem with racism, a new lawsuit alleges. And the issue starts at the very top of the football food chain. Here is what’s happening.
“Go Back to Africa”
Back in 2020, reporter Jim Trotter sat down with a colleague from NFL Media, a league-owned entity that also manages the NFL Network.
In that discussion, the fellow journalist told Trotter and several other co-workers about a discussion he’d had with Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula.
The reporter and team owner were chatting about league initiatives to address social injustice and the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
At one point, the reporter alleges that Pegula told him, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
Concerns Brushed Off
Trotter was shocked to hear his colleague’s account of Pegula’s comments. He went to his bosses at NFL Media and asked them to look into the situation.
But, according to a lawsuit Trotter recently filed against the NFL, his superiors brushed him off time and time again.
Those bosses told Trotter time and time again that the league office was investigating the issue. He never saw any movement or heard any updates on that front, though.
For his part, Pegula says he never made any racist comments. “I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind,” he said.
Pegula isn’t alone in being fingered by Trotter’s lawsuit, though.
More Racists Remarks
The journalist also points to a conversation he personally had with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, also in 2020.
In that sit-down, Trotter was meeting with Jones and Cowboys executive Will McClay about the lack of high-level roles occupied by Black employees in the NFL.
According to Trotter, that meeting was not very friendly, and Jones eventually got fed up with the conversation.
At that point, Trotter says Jones left him with a parting thought: “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.”
Like Pegula, though, Jones denies ever uttering those words. He says diversity and inclusion are very important issues to him and that Trotter misrepresented their conversation.
So, What Did They Find?
Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, says he’s known about the allegations against Pegula and Jones for a while. The league has investigated, he says, though he didn’t specifically say what the NFL’s findings were.
The league as an entity did take a stand in a statement addressing the lawsuit, though.
“We take his concerns seriously, but strongly dispute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues at NFL Media,” the NFL said in their statement.
Trotter’s suit asks for unspecified monetary damages. But the overarching concern is a full-scale investigation into what Trotter calls discriminatory and retaliatory behavior that’s widespread in the NFL.
Goodell admits there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of improving the league’s diversity. But he thinks they’re making progress, even if it’s not fast enough to suit everyone.
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