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Law professors attack Roger Goodell’s authority to resolve claims in Brian Flores case

Mike Florio and Chris Simms examine if there are any potential candidates who could give Roger Goodell a run for his money, given NFL owners reportedly are nearing an extension for the Commissioner.

As Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton seek reconsideration of a mixed-bad ruling regarding their effort to escape mandatory arbitration of claims made against the NFL and multiple teams, they have allies in the form of law professors who focus their efforts on dispute resolution.

On Tuesday, 12 law professors filed paperwork in support of the position by Flores and his co-plaintiffs that Commissioner Roger Goodell should not be handling the arbitration of the pending claims.

They argue that arbitration controlled by Goodell would “undermine the equitable administration of arbitration and erode public confidence in arbitration.” They write that delegating the authorities to Goodell is “unconscionable and contrary to the norms of fundamental fairness developed by the arbitration community.”

Most significantly as it relates to other employees and other employers, tThe law professors argue that, if the NFL’s position prevails, companies throughout the country “may rewrite their arbitration clauses to imitate the NFL’s provisions whereby a company representative serves as the sole, designated arbitrator for employment disputes or consumer disputes against the company.” They explain that this “could transform arbitration as it has been practiced for decades and damage the credibility of arbitration as a viable form of dispute resolution.”

The NFL likes to brag about how other businesses emulate the Rooney Rule. Ironically, the NFL tries to ensure that any lawsuits attacking the league’s failure to properly honor the spirit and letter of the Rooney Rule will be resolved in a way designed to lead to a good outcome. Surely, that approach will inspire other companies to follow the league’s lead.

The document submitted by the law professors also points out something we’ve repeatedly argued here, by calling the league’s arbitration procedures a secret, rigged, kangaroo court. And while the law professors devote most of their argument to the more usual (and hard to follow, for non-lawyers) legal terms, they use a football metaphor that any football fan will understand. It’s like, they explain, “allowing a referee to officiate a professional football game where the referee owns one of the teams.”

It remains to be seen whether the effort works. The presiding judge already has ruled that several of the claims should go to arbitration, despite these basic and obvious flaws with the process. As Flores, Wilks, and Horton seek reconsideration of the prior ruling, they’re hopeful that the input from the law professors will spark an adjustment to the decision, short of having to file an appeal to a higher court.