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NFL must face racial bias claims in open court, judge rules

FILE PHOTO: NFL - Miami Dolphins Media Day

By Jack Queen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Football League and three of its teams must face claims by Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores of racist hiring practices in open court, a U.S. judge in New York ruled on Wednesday while sending other aspects of the case to private arbitration.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni ruled that the NFL, the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Houston Texans must face Flores' claims of systematic discrimination against Black coaches in the league. Flores formerly served as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

The lawsuit seeks to force the NFL to make a series of changes, incentivize teams to hire Black coaches and general managers, and require them to explain hiring and termination decisions in writing.

Caproni sent Flores' retaliation claim against the Dolphins to private arbitration, along with claims by two other coaches who joined Flores in the suit.

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for Flores, said in a statement he was pleased that his client's claims of "systematic discrimination" by the NFL would proceed to a jury but was disappointed that other elements of the suit will now be arbitrated in-house by the NFL.

"We look forward to pursuing all these claims to trial in their various forums," Wigdor added.

A New York Giants spokesperson declined to comment.

Lawyers for the NFL and representatives of the other teams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The NFL has denied claims of racial discrimination and said it is committed to diversity and equitable employment practices.

Flores sued the NFL and its 32 teams in February 2022 after being fired as head coach of the Dolphins, alleging systemic discrimination against Black candidates for top coaching and management jobs.

The league has argued the case should be dismissed because the claims lacked merit, or be sent to arbitration pursuant to the coaches' employment contracts.

(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Will Dunham)