April 18, 2024

Jim Trotter talks candidly about his case against the NFL

Plenty of lawyers tell their clients to not comment on active litigation. That’s because anything said by the client in a public setting can be used by the other side’s lawyers, in an effort to twist the things said into knots laters.

When it comes to Jim Trotter’s new lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Network, Trotter (and presumably his lawyers) have no qualms about Trotter speaking publicly about the case. When someone firmly and clearly believes the only story being told is the truth, there’s no reason to be afraid of having that story twisted into something other than the truth.

Trotter appeared with Michael Holley on Thursday’s Brother From Another on Peacock and SiriusXM 85. Trotter spoke candidly about certain aspects of the case.

He addressed the question of how he can claim retaliation by the NFL for failing to renew his contract, given the misperception by many that the expiration of a contract provides absolute justification for an employer to move on from an employee.

“People say, ‘Well, your contract was up. How’s that retaliation?’” Trotter said. “In November [2022], I knew that my contract was expiring in March [2023]. I knew that I had ruffled some feathers. I said to my agent, ‘Can you call and see what their plans are? Do they have any interest in renewing and if not time for us to start looking elsewhere.’ He calls the V.P. of talent there, Sandy Nunez, and he says, ‘Hey, just checking on what’s going on. Jim’s contract’s going to expire in X number of months.’ And she says to him, ‘We can see no reason we won’t bring him back. Everybody loves Jim. Now, it may come with a pay trim because we’re going to have budget cuts, but there’s no reason to think that he won’t be back.’

“That was in November. Fast forward to the Super Bowl. I asked Roger Goodell that question [about minority representation in the NFL Network newsroom]. Three weeks later, Sandy Nunez asked to meet with me at the Scouting Combine, and her question to me was, ‘Are you in alignment with the newsroom?’ And I said, ‘Of course not. I can’t be in alignment with a newsroom that has no black representation.’ And she says, ‘That’s what I thought.’ She goes, ‘It’s really hard to fight corporate headwinds. Sometimes you got to compromise. And I said, ‘Sandy, I’ve compromised here, here and here.’ And I laid out three examples and I said to her, ‘I am not going to compromise my integrity. And then I specifically asked her, are you now telling me my contract is not going to be renewed?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know. It’s being discussed.’ Three weeks later, I was told it was not going to be renewed.”

Yes, the lawyers who will be representing the NFL will surely use those words as a starting point for aggressive follow-up questioning of Trotter at his deposition in the case. And, no, Trotter surely does not care.

Trotter also shared a story of how he raised his concerns internally, beyond his decision to twice question the Commissioner at pre-Super Bowl press conferences.

“I’ll tell you a story, and the people in the room can verify it,” Trotter said. “Every summer, the NFL Media group has a talent summit, and in that talent summit, they bring together all the folks from the media group, particularly the front facing talent.

“And we have a day and a half of discussions about where the league is, where it’s going, what we can expect for the upcoming season, all those sorts of things. And during the course of those one and a half days, we had breakout sessions, and in one of the breakout sessions for front facing talent, we meet with the head of the media group who at that time, his name was Mark Quenzel. And it just so happened that Han Schroeder, NFL executive from New York, was in that meeting as well. This was June of 2022.

“And so I said to Mark, I said, ‘We can ask you anything in this meeting, right? Nothing’s off limits.’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘You can ask.’ I said, ‘We just sat in a big ballroom and I listened to you talk about the progress that the league and the media group have made as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion.’ I said, ‘There were three other white males up on that stage with you.’ I said, ‘There was no one who looked like me.’ I said, ‘And so as a black employee at the NFL, when you talk about this, how am I supposed to feel about that?’ I said, ‘We have no black managers in the newsroom and we have no full-time black news assistants.’

“And he stopped me and he said, ‘Yes, we do.’ And I said, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘No, we don’t.’ He said, ‘I walked through that newsroom every day, I see them. Yes, we do.’ And at that point, Hans Schroeder interjected, and I said to him, ‘Hans, hold on. I need an answer on this.’ So I said to Mark Quenzel, ‘I will drop all of this right now, I will not bring it up again, if you name one full-time black news assistant in our newsroom.’ And he paused for a moment and he said, ‘I can’t think of it right now. I’ll get back to you.’ We’re now in what, September of 2023? And he still hasn’t gotten back to me.”

Again, that level of detail surely will be used by the NFL’s lawyers in preparing to defend the league’s interests. Again, Trotter surely does not care.

Trotter, quite frankly, is the NFL’s worst legal nightmare. Because he doesn’t care. He made that clear in an emotional conclusion to his comments to Holley.

“I think the only pause that I got from people was, ‘Have you thought about your career if you do this?’ And I said, my point is, ‘Yeah, I’ve thought about my career, but I’ve also thought about me as a person,’ Michael, without getting too deep into this thing, part of the reason that I’m able to do this, and this is going to sound really hokey and I don’t want to get all emotional and stuff, but my father passed away a few months ago. He knew what happened, and he told me, he said, ‘I’m proud of you.’ That means more to me than any of this other stuff. And my mom said the same thing. So when I lay my head down, I’m good. I’m good.”

And that’s bad for the NFL. Because if and when they realize they should give Trotter a blank check to make this thing go away before it becomes an even bigger problem than it already is, Trotter just might tell them to take that check, fold it up real tight, and stick it up the slot of a very specific kind of sunshine-deprived ATM.

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