The NFL currently faces a landmark piece of litigation aimed at forcing meaningful and needed change in the head-coaching hiring and firing practices of the league’s 32 teams. The NFL intends to try to divert the entire case from an independent, public court into a secret, rigged kangaroo court.
In a civil case management plan and scheduling order submitted by the parties on Thursday, the league and the various teams that have been named in the case express an intention to file a motion to compel arbitration or, in the alternative, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
“We have said from the start that if the NFL wants to create change, the first step is to allow for transparency,” attorney Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said in a statement. “The NFL’s attempt to force these claims into arbitration demonstrates an unmistakable desire to avoid any public accountability and ensure that these claims are litigated behind closed doors in a forum stacked against our clients. We will fight this request in court, but Mr. Goodell should have done the right thing, disclaimed arbitration altogether and allowed this case to be tried before a jury representing a cross-section of the community, just like those who watch football.”
In cases filed against the league or its teams, the NFL routinely attempts to invoke an arbitration process that typically calls for the claims to be resolved in a private arbitration resolved by Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee. It’s impossible for anyone to get a truly fair outcome in a case brought against the NFL or against one or more of the teams that employ and compensate the Commissioner.
The NFL persists with this practice because, like many American employers, the league loathes the idea of public accountability for potential misconduct. Also, like many American employers, the NFL realizes that a private arbitration process is far less likely to result in the kind of verdict a jury of average citizens would impose against the league and/or its teams.
Any company that does the right thing by its workers and has nothing to hide should have no qualms about defending itself in open, public court against any and all claims. The NFL wants to have every single claim ever made against it to be resolved in a process that it both inherently secret and necessarily rigged. What does that say about whether the NFL believes the league and its teams does the right thing by its current or former employees?
It’s a decision to be rendered by the court of public opinion, and there’s nothing the NFL can do to control that outcome.