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Judge compels arbitration of some, not all, claims in the Brian Flores case

Mike Florio and Chris Simms unpack Judge Valerie Caproni’s decision that some of Brian Flores’ discrimination claims will be resolved by the NFL’s in-house arbitration process and some will be resolved in court.

Thirteen months to the day after the filing of a landmark racial discrimination case by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, it’s finally known where the claims will be resolved.

Pending appeal, that is.

Judge Valerie Caproni, in a 30-page ruling issued on Wednesday, decided that some of the claims will be resolved by the NFL’s in-house arbitration process, and that some will be resolved in court.

She referred the claim Flores made against the Dolphins to arbitration, based on the terms of his contract with the team. However, Flores will be permitted to pursue in court his claims against the Broncos, Giants, Texans, and his “related claims against the NFL.” Flores was never employed by those teams, and he is therefore not required to arbitrate his claims against those teams.

The claims against the Broncos and Giants arise from the notion that he received a “sham” interview for vacancies in both cities. His claim against the Texans arises from the argument that he wasn’t hired in retaliation for the filing of his lawsuit.

The claims made by Steve Wilks against the Cardinals and Ray Horton against the Titans will proceed to arbitration, because both coaches were employed by their respective teams. Wilks was fired by Arizona after one year, and Horton was passed over for the head-coaching job in Tennessee at a time when he was serving as the team’s defensive coordinator.

All parties will have appeal rights, and that could serve to delay the case even longer. For now, Judge Caproni has set a pretrial conference for March 24, at which various dates and deadlines for the litigation will be set.

It would be a surprise if the NFL doesn’t exercise its appeal rights. Even if it loses, the appeal process delays indefinitely the discovery phase of the case, during which owners and other key witnesses (including Commissioner Roger Goodell) would be questioned aggressively under oath in a case that, as Judge Caproni’s ruling says in the opening sentence, “shines an unflattering spotlight on the employment practices of National Football League teams.”