Brian Flores’ suit against the NFL for its racist employment practices is still active, but the league might try a legal trick to avoid going to court.
During a March 14 media call held by the American Association for Justice, the former Miami Dolphins head coach and now Pittsburgh assistant coach told reporters, including the MSR, that the Dolphins “have actively sought to force my case…into arbitration. My case will be litigated behind closed doors confidentially, without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he pointed out.
This legal move the NFL team is considering is called “forced arbitration.”
Fair Arbitration Now points out that most Americans don’t know they are bound by forced arbitration because it is buried in the fine print of employment, cell phone, credit card, and other contracts. Individuals as a result are forced to give up their right to go to court if wronged by a company. It helps the business evade accountability because there is no judge or jury and no right to appeal.
Flores admitted he just learned about forced arbitration after filing his class-action suit in January shortly after he was fired by Miami. It’s bigger than pro football—it “really crosses all industries,” he said. “There’s literally a system in place that uses forced arbitration, which essentially allows for discrimination to continue.”
The pro football coach, the national lawyers’ group, and others supported the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act that Congress last week passed 222-209. It would ban forced arbitration in all forms. A similar bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 but got stalled by the then-Republican-led Senate.
U.S. Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Hank Johnson, who were also on last week’s media call, both are hoping that the FAIR Act will get through the Senate, controlled this time around by Democrats, and reach President Joe Biden’s desk for signature. Biden earlier this month signed a bill into law that prohibits mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment claims.
“The American people are being hoodwinked…are being bamboozled, and the American people are being led astray by the malignant presence of forced arbitration,” said Rep. Jeffries.
Rep. Johnson added, “Arbitration is a business that was set up by businesses for businesses, and it is an alternative dispute resolution process. Nothing wrong with arbitration, but what we’re talking about here is forced arbitration. It’s wrong.”
When the MSR asked Coach Flores if he thought the NFL will indeed use forced arbitration as a stall tactic in his case, he responded, “We’re prepared to go the distance here. I don’t know what the stall tactics will be, but we’re ready to go.”
He added that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if he is for change as he often declares in public, should allow his case to go to court and be decided by a judge and jury. Flores said his case isn’t for himself but for those to follow.
“I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can use my platform to bring awareness to the issue of race discrimination in the National Football League,” he said. “I don’t want my kids to watch football and think that they just have to be a player, that they can’t be a head coach, that they can’t be an executive, that they can’t be an owner.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.