White America doesn’t accept racism until they’ve seen it broken down in percentages, watched an innocent Black man be murdered by police in Minneapolis — on repeat — or read a document that encompasses just how systemic this country’s original sin is. The claims in Jim Trotter’s racial discrimination/retaliation lawsuit against the NFL embody all of that — and depict how the NFL and America are identical in how they mistreat Black people.
There’s a reason why this country loves football so much.
Roger Goodell and the NFL probably thought they got away with it — as they often do. Tuesday morning changed all that when the award-winning veteran football reporter filed his lawsuit, almost six months after his contract with NFL Media wasn’t renewed because he continually questioned Goodell for a lack of diversity throughout the league and in its newsroom.
“The NFL has claimed it wants to be held accountable regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Trotter. “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.”
All 53 pages of Trotter’s lawsuit paint a picture that can be viewed as either shocking or par for the course, depending on the color of your skin. For most white people, it will be an eye-opener. A document that momentarily wakes them up to how white things actually are. For Black people, it will be yet another example of the obstacles we’ve always, and continue to face, with a dash of enjoyment — because at least it’s out in the open.
For instance, a timeline in the lawsuit breaks down what led to Trotter losing his job. It begins with claims that in November of 2022, Sandra Nunez, NFL Vice President of On-Air Talent Management, told Trotter’s agent that she “Could not envision any reason why his contract would not be renewed” at the end of March. It goes on to allege that in the same conversation, she asked Trotter’s agent if he wanted to expand his role with the company. And after Trotter pressed Goodell at the Super Bowl — for the second consecutive year — the lawsuit claims that Trotter’s direct supervisor, Ali Bhanpuri, NFL Media’s senior director of content and editorial, asked one of his colleagues, “Why does Jim keep bringing this up?”
The lawsuit goes on to claim that weeks later, Nunez asked Trotter in a face-to-face conversation if he was “in alignment” with the NFL, which was followed by emails from Trotter claiming he had not been given assignments, ultimately leading to Nunez notifying Trotter’s agent eight days later that his contract wouldn’t be renewed.
“Mr. Trotter’s termination is consistent with the NFL’s long record of retaliating against anyone who stands up against the league,” wrote Trotter’s lawyers in a statement. “Thankfully Mr. Trotter is not subject to any arbitration agreement for the NFL to try to hide behind, and the NFL will be held accountable in an open and public forum.”
To further understand what Trotter was up against, here’s a diagram from his complaint showing how things work within the league and NFL Media. Notice the whiteness. It’s everywhere, you can’t miss it.
Take a look:
Despite race-norming, being currently investigated by New York and California Attorneys General for hostile workplace discrimination for racial and sexual harassment and age bias, and Brian Flores’ class-action suit against the league for its alleged racist hiring against Black coaches, any person with a lick of sense would think that the NFL would have gone about handling Trotter’s situation more delicately.
However, this is the NFL — they don’t get down like that.
But more importantly, this is Goodell’s NFL, which means that it’s led by a man without a soul.
One particular part of the lawsuit depicts a scene in which Trotter ran into Goodell at the “Women in Football” Forum during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis a few weeks after the Super Bowl. Trotter asked the commissioner for a moment so they could talk. Goodell allegedly replied, “As an employee, you should have my email and phone number.”
If true — which it probably is — this is why Goodell’s apology to Colin Kaepernick was worthless. It’s further proof of how Jay-Z has been nothing but a willing and well-paid puppet ever since he struck a deal with Goodell and the league, “We’ve moved past kneeling,” he infamously said.
Ironically enough, while Trotter is in the middle of all of this, it’s not the place where he wants to be. Impacting change is hard and it requires sacrifice. Trotter has already lost his job for speaking up. And with this lawsuit, he’s not necessarily trying to get payback against a Commissioner, media company, and league that wronged him. He’s trying to make it better so that the ones who will be courageous enough to speak out after him have it a little bit easier.
“When I think of the Hall of Fame, I think of impact, I think of difference makers, and I think of legacy. And many of you with gold jackets who I’ve talked to have told me that your goal was to leave the game in better shape than you found it,” Trotter said last month when he accepted the Bill Nunn Jr. Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “And those words have stayed with me over the years, so much so that I have even tried to apply them to my profession. I’ve thought about — how can I open the door for those who come behind me? How can I make newsrooms more reflective of the communities that they cover?”
By revealing the smoking gun, that’s how.