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Panthers’ recent hire of Frank Reich’s daughter could become an issue in Steve Wilks’ litigation

Michael Holley and Jim Trotter discuss the Carolina Panthers passing over interim head coach Steve Wilks to hire Frank Reich as the franchise's new head coach.

After the Panthers hired Frank Reich to be the team’s next head coach, the lawyer representing former interim coach Steve Wilks strongly implied that the Panthers will be added to the pending litigation against the NFL and multiple teams over racial discrimination in hiring practices.

For Wilks, the argument would be both that racial bias infected the process and that the Panthers shied away from Wilks at least in part because of the fact that he has sued the Cardinals for racial discrimination.

Here’s a fact that will become an issue in the inevitable discovery process once Wilks adds the Panthers as a defendant: as of January 8, roughly 90 minutes after the team’s regular season ended, Reich’s daughter announced that she officially had become an employee of the Panthers.

There’s nothing wrong with that fact, in isolation. Nepotism is already rampant in the NFL. And it wasn’t even nepotism if Reich wasn’t the coach when she was hired.

That said, Wilks and his lawyers will want to explore whether and to what extent it was known that Frank Reich was destined to become the head coach when his daughter was offered and/or accepted the job. Was it a done deal, a fait accompli, that the Panthers were hiring Frank Reich to be the coach when the Panthers hired Reich’s daughter?

It will require a careful review of the electronic paper trail (emails, texts, etc.) along with questioning of those involved in the process. The argument will be, if the facts support the notion that it was Reich all along, that the interview process was a sham.

That’s one of the major themes of the entire litigation, that Rooney Rule compliance occurs simply as a matter of perfunctory box-checking, and that as a result worthless and pointless interviews occur at a time when the owner already knows what the owner plans to do.

That’s what makes the hiring of Reich’s daughter relevant. When she was offered the job, did the team already know that Reich would be the next head coach?

If the answer is no, it’s just another issue that was explored as part of a lawsuit. If the answer is yes, any claim Wilks may make against the Panthers suddenly becomes stronger.