Longtime NFL journalist Jim Trotter filed a lawsuit against the league Tuesday, alleging his departure from NFL Media was retaliatory and racially motivated.
Trotter, who is Black, claimed his employment at NFL Media ended earlier this year after he “challenged Commissioner Roger Goodell … regarding the NFL’s record of race discrimination and lack of diversity” at Goodell’s pre-Super Bowl press conference. NFL Media is owned and operated by the league.
NFL Network also is named as a defendant in the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The league has claimed Trotter’s contract was not renewed due to economic decisions.
“We share Jim Trotter’s passion for quality journalism created in and supported by a diverse and inclusive environment,” the league said in a statement. “We take his concerns seriously, but strongly dispute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues at NFL Media.”
While not named as a defendant, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula is alleged in the lawsuit to have made racist comments about Black NFL players.
Trotter relayed a conversation with a fellow NFL Media reporter, who was not identified. That reporter was speaking with Pegula in 2020 about the Black Lives Matter movement and the NFL’s social justice programs, and Pegula said, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
Pegula denied making the comment in a statement Tuesday.
“The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false,” Pegula said. “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’s lawsuit said that he took a complaint to NFL Media executives, who told him that the league office was investigating it.
Trotter also alleged that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told him in 2020 that, “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.” Neither Jones nor the Cowboys have commented.
Trotter, who now works for The Athletic, is seeking unspecified damages as well as an investigation into “discriminatory and/or retaliatory animus of all persons in position of power within the NFL,” per the lawsuit.
“The NFL has claimed it wants to be held accountable regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. I tried to do so and it cost me my job,” Trotter wrote on social media Tuesday. “I’m filing this lawsuit because I can’t complain about things that are wrong if I’m unwilling to fight for what is right.”
–Field Level Media