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Brian Flores' Lawyer Urges Roger Goodell To Avoid Hypocrisy, Keep Case Out Of 'Secret' Arbitration

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Brian Flores' attorney is putting the pressure squarely on Roger Goodell to keep his case transparent and in the public eye.

Douglas Wigdor, who's representing Flores in his racial discrimination suit against the NFL, sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesday, urging the commissioner to reject the Miami Dolphins' request for the case to heard in arbitration.

"We request that you reject Miami's request to arbitrate its disputes with Mr. Flores because arbitration -- which is conducted behind closed doors and outside the public eye -- is contrary to all notions of transparency, accountability and fundamental fairness," Wigdor wrote. "If the National Football League is truly committed to racial justice and equality, it will not attempt to force Mr. Flores' claims into arbitration."

Wigdor later stated: "If the league is genuinely interested in eradicating discrimination and ensuring the integrity of the game, the bare minimum the league can do is reject Miami's request to arbitrate these important claims."

The letter -- which was also sent to NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and Dolphins general counsel Myles Pistorius -- indicated that if the NFL wants to live up to public pronouncements from Goodell, then it must reject the Dolphins' request for arbitration.

"One thing we should all be able to agree on is that a fair and just adjudication of Mr. Flores' claims is impossible without transparency," Wigdor wrote. "Accountability requires transparency. NFL coaches (and candidates), players and the public at large deserve that transparency. Arbitration is not transparent. Indeed, arbitration is by its very nature a secretive process that takes place behind closed doors and outside of the public eye. The lack of transparency in arbitration only serves to continue the status quo -- which in this case, is one that you have conceded must be fairly evaluated and potentially overhauled. This cannot happen in arbitration. In addition to being secret and confidential, it is a well-accepted fact that arbitration presents a barrier to justice for victims of discrimination and other misconduct."

Wigdor also called out Goodell for the NFL's initial response to the lawsuit, which discredited every accusation made by Flores, including a claim that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross bribed the coach to lose games in 2019.

"The NFL immediately -- without any investigation whatsoever, and contrary to a mountain of statistical and anecdotal evidence -- declared that Mr. Flores' claims were 'without merit,'" Wigdor wrote. "Perhaps realizing that this assertion was indefensible, you subsequently acknowledged in a letter to the 32 teams that the current lack of diversity with respect to NFL coaches is 'unacceptable.'"

Wigdor cited various public pronouncements of seeking to improve the NFL's standards for minority coaches while noting that Goodell "rejected [a] proposal out of hand" when asked to sit with a neutral mediator to try to bring about "meaningful change."

Wigdor also argued that "arbitration provides the protection of secrecy for perpetrators of discrimination."

Finally, the letter called upon the NFL's moral obligation to "demonstrate fairness and uphold appropriate ethical standards."

"That moral obligation must extend beyond mere slogans and into action. The NFL must 'walk the walk' and be willing to take actual steps to promote diversity, equality and inclusion -- which you have directly said is 'critical to [the NFL's] continued success.' It is impossible for the NFL to 'walk the walk' while simultaneously forcing claims of race discrimination, and related claims, into arbitration."

The letter concluded: "If the NFL is truly committed to 'ending racism,' as it has repeatedly claimed, the league will reject Miami's request for arbitration. Race discrimination cannot be eradicated behind closed doors and the integrity of the game depends on transparency."

The letter is, quite obviously, ambitious. If Goodell truly does care about matters of diversity and inclusivity in the NFL, then he would obviously abide by the request.

Alas, this is business, and this is the NFL. The most likely scenario is that Goodell and the NFL do only what is legally required of them. And if the case can be heard behind closed doors, the league would much prefer that route. Controlling the message has been and likely always will be the league's modus operandi.

Still, the letter makes some strong points, pitting Goodell as a duplicitous hypocrite if his actions don't match his public stance.

That, however, has rarely stopped Goodell from operating the league as he -- and the billionaire owners who are his bosses -- sees fit. The letter, then, works well from a PR standpoint but should be considered a long shot to force any notable change from Goodell and the NFL in this particular matter.

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