Former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter filed a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Media on Tuesday, six months after he was told his contract would not be renewed in March 2023.
The complaint alleges that Trotter’s contract was not renewed because he challenged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others about the league’s “record of race discrimination and lack of diversity.”
“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. 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,” Trotter said in a statement.
Trotter, who worked for the NFL Network for five years, says there was an expectation that his contract would be renewed after a November 2022 conversation between Trotter’s agent and NFL Vice President of On-Air Talent Management Sandra Nunez.
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Nunez allegedly told his agent that she “could not envision any reason why his [Mr. Trotter’s] contract would not be renewed,” according to the complaint.
But then after publicly challenging Goodell during a State of the League press conference in February 2023 on the NFL’s “record on hiring, retaining and advancing Black leaders across the organization, including in the NFL newsroom,” Trotter says he was asked if he was “in alignment” with the NFL, to which Trotter said he was not “in alignment” with a newsroom that does not have “Black representation in decision-making positions.”
After sending a series of emails reporting that he was not being given assignments and was being retaliated against after challenging Goodell, Trotter said he was informed that his contract would not be renewed on March 24, 2023.
The NFL said in a statement: “We share Jim Trotter’s passion for quality journalism created in and supported by a diverse and inclusive environment. We take his concerns seriously, but strongly dispute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues at NFL Media. Mr. Trotter’s departure from NFL Media was one of many difficult decisions—similar to decisions recently made by many other media organizations—to address a challenging economy and a changing media environment. Jim was one of many employees who were unfortunately affected by these business decisions.
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“We appreciate Jim’s five years of service at NFL Media and wish him much success in his new role. The NFL has made significant strides in improving diversity and inclusion and, while we acknowledge there is always more work to be done, we are committed to continuing that progress.”
The complaint also claims that Trotter’s “experience with discrimination and retaliation” was not limited to his termination, citing examples of what the complaint says was Trotter witnessing “discriminatory and/or hostile conduct by his employers – including by NFL team owners – that went entirely unchecked as a matter of standard operating procedure.”
“I hope this lawsuit leads to real change across the league and in the newsroom,” Trotter said in a statement. “It is on the backs of a majority black player population that owners have made billions and those players deserve to have someone who shares their cultural and life experiences at the table when decisions are being made about how they are being covered.”
According to the complaint, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula once said in reference to player protests against racial injustice in 2020, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
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Pegula released a statement on Tuesday to refute the claim.
“The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false,” the statement says. “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.”
The complaint also alleges that Trotter once asked Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about the lack of Black professionals in decision-making positions.
The complaint states that Jones and Trotter engaged in a conversation at the NFL’s 2020 Hall of Fame Game where Trotter asked Jones why NFL teams had so few Black decision-makers.
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“If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire,” the complaint alleges Jones said in response.
The complaint alleges that Trotter was instructed not to mention the comments on air.
“Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL. The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate,” Jones said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
Trotter now works for The Athletic, which is owned by the New York Times.