After receiving claims from former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson that the team provided incentives as part of a plan to deliberately lose games in order to improve their position in the draught in future years, the National Football League said it was unable to provide any evidence to support those claims.
After reviewing thousands of pages of documents, including emails and internal memos, the league concluded that the allegations were true. The investigation was led by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White and coincided with Jackson’s two-year tenure as head coach in 2016 and 2017, when the team’s four-year plan to revitalise the club was being implemented.
However, according to the league, Jackson did not interact with White and other investigators as part of the inquiry, but White’s team did examine documents and evidence from an earlier arbitration between Jackson and the Browns. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, as well as current and past players, were all interviewed by White for the documentary.
Jackson revealed in early February that he had earned incentives totaling $750,000 as part of the team’s strategy to lose games in order to boost the Browns’ ranking in the next year’s NFL draught. Jackson was in charge of the Browns from 2016 to 2017, and the team won only one game in each of those years. He was sacked following the team’s 2-5-1 record in the first eight games of the 2018 season.
Brian Flores, who had recently been fired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that other teams gave him “sham interviews” for vacant coaching positions that they knew would be filled by white coaches. Jackson made the claims just days after Flores filed his lawsuit. Flores’ lawsuit claimed that the practise was part of a broader pattern of discrimination against Black coaches in the league’s hiring procedures.
Flores also alleged in that petition that Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, promised to pay him $100,000 for each game he lost while serving as the team’s head coach.
A pretrial conference was held on Monday in New York federal court between the attorneys representing Flores and the two other Black N.F.L. coaches who have joined the suit, Ray Horton and Steve Wilks. The attorneys representing the N.F.L., which includes Loretta Lynch, a former United States attorney general, were on the other side of the table.
A application to compel arbitration must be filed by June 21 in order to require Lynch and the NFL’s legal team to argue that the plaintiffs’ claims should be referred to closed-door arbitration. Flores’ lawyers are pushing to have the case heard in public rather than behind closed doors.
The plaintiffs also asked to commence limited discovery to determine if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had prejudices that would disqualify him from serving as an arbitrator in the case. Goodell’s employment position was referenced by the plaintiffs, who noted that the 32 clubs fighting against Flores’s allegations decide and pay his salary. They also cited the league’s statement issued shortly after the case was filed, in which it said that Flores’s accusations were “without substance.”
The judge who presided over the conference avoided making a ruling on whether or not limited discovery could take place until after the National Football League filed its application to compel discovery. However, if the plaintiffs successfully ask the court to allow limited discovery into Goodell’s involvement, the deadline for responding to Goodell’s request will be extended to July 22.
Flores’s counsel informed the court that they would be willing to participate in a settlement conference, but the National Football League objected, stating that it is sure that the arbitration process would be unbiased in nature.