Former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter is suing the NFL and its cable channel for racial discrimination, and the filed complaint accuses Jerry Jones and Terry Pegula of making racist comments.
Earlier this year, Trotter’s contract with NFL Media was not renewed, this after the veteran reporter asked about the league’s lack of diversity commitment during each of commissioner Roger Goodell’s last two Super Bowl press conferences. According to Trotter, he declined a three-month severance package with an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] after his contract wasn’t renewed.
Per The New York Times, Trotter has now filed a a 53-page complaint against the NFL in federal court in Manhattan, claiming his contract was not renewed as retaliation for questioning Goodell about the league’s commitment to diversity. Trotter also claimed that he was instructed not to share Jones’ comment on the air while covering the league for NFL Media. The NFL denies the specific allegations.
Trotter said he wanted to mention Jones on air during his coverage of Jon Gruden in 2021, as racist emails written by the former Raiders coach came to light, because he felt there was a pattern of dismissiveness toward diversity. The lawsuit claims that two of Trotter’s supervisors instructed him not to use Jones’s comment.
“Mr. Trotter raised his concerns on numerous occasions about the N.F.L.’s record on racial diversity and discrimination, but the N.F.L. did nothing to legitimately investigate or address his concerns — even though offensive conduct was being committed by people at the very top of the N.F.L. hierarchy,” the complaint said.
A league spokesman 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” and said their decision not to renew was driven by budget constraints.
As shared by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the lawsuit features accusations claiming Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula made racial comments to Trotter. According to the lawsuit, in Aug. 2020, Trotter asked Jones about the lack of Black professionals in decision-making positions for NFL teams.
“If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire,” Jones allegedly answered.
From the Jim Trotter complaint against the NFL. Note the quotes attributed to Jerry Jones and Terry Pegula. pic.twitter.com/mAQz27QxuR
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 12, 2023
The lawsuit also claims Pegula responded to player protests against racial injustice with, “If the Black payers don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
Trotter allegedly raised complaints over the racist comments by Pegula and Jones, but claims no action was taken by the NFL. Similarly, the lawsuit states Trotter raised concerns about the league’s record on racial diversity and discrimination, but the NFL did nothing to address it. Below is a clip of Trotter questioning Goodell about the league’s lack of diversity:
This is what Roger Goodell came up with after having 80 seconds to think through his response to @JimTrotter_NFL‘s question about diversity issues at NFL Media (which Trotter also asked him about last year) pic.twitter.com/EQlbrsI0hg
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 8, 2023
After his contract was not renewed by NFL Media, Trotter joined The Athletic as a columnist, which is owned by The New York Times.
UPDATE: Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula issued a statement strongly denying Trotter’s allegation via the Bills Twitter page.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 12, 2023