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Dolphins ex-coach wants to depose NFL commissioner in bias suit

By Chris Dolmetsch Washington Post

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and two other Black coaches suing the National Football League over claims of systemic racism in hiring for management jobs want to depose Commissioner Roger Goodell about his alleged biases.

The request made in a Friday letter to a Manhattan federal judge is part of a fight over whether the case will remain in court or be sent to arbitration. The NFL moved to compel arbitration last week, but Doug Wigdor, the coaches’ lawyer, said that would be unacceptable because Goodell would then decide the case.

Flores sued the NFL in February alleging the league has failed to live up to the spirit of the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to consider at least one minority candidate during searches for coaches and executives, by letting front offices conduct sham interviews while filling the roles with White candidates.

According to Wigdor, the commissioner cannot be fair because he is an employee of the NFL and has a large financial interest at stake — the lawyer cited reports that Goodell was paid nearly $130 million in compensation over the last two years.

“Mr. Goodell cannot possibly be an impartial arbiter of any aspect of this proceeding, when a decision against the NFL and/or its teams would harm the league both financially and reputationally,” Wigdor wrote in the Friday letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni.

In addition to interviewing Goodell, the coaches also asked for evidence about his compensation and his relationships with other NFL executives and league defense lawyers. Wigdor noted that Goodell was, like the NFL, being represented by the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, who served as defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, joined the case as co-plaintiffs in April.

The case is Flores v. NFL, 22-cv-00871, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).