Jim Trotter lawsuits attributes alleged racist remark to Jerry Jones

The new lawsuit filed against the NFL by reporter Jim Trotter attributes a second-hand racist remark to Bills owner Terry Pegula. As to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Trotter makes a first-hand allegation of inappropriate, racially-charged commentary.

Beginning at paragraph 110 of the civil complaint, Trotter explains that, in the aftermath of Jon Gruden’s departure from the Raiders in October 2021 after the release of various inappropriate emails, Trotter planned to share on NFL NOW a racist statement that allegedly had been made by Jones to Trotter at the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and the Cowboys. (The complaint inadvertently uses the year 2020; the HOF game was postponed in 2020 due to COVID.)

Trotter, while on the field before the game, was congregating with other reporters. Here’s what the complaint alleges, in paragraph 113: “At one point, Mr. Trotter was speaking to Will McClay, the Cowboy’s Vice President of Player Personnel, about the fact that NFL teams tend not to draft many players out of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (‘HBCUs’) and whether that might be due to the lack of Black people in personnel decision-making positions — i.e. General Managers. Mr. Jones joined the conversation, and Mr. Trotter asked why teams have so few Black decision makers.”

From paragraph 114: “In response to Mr. Trotter, Mr. Jones dodged the question and stated that players get a large percentage of league revenue and the majority of players are Black. In effect, Mr. Jones was stating that Black people should ‘be happy for what they have’ and not seek further advancement of their rights, positions in society or equality.”

From paragraph 115: “Mr. Trotter reiterated his question, and Mr. Jones responded, ‘I’m starting to feel a little defensive.’ However, notwithstanding Mr. Jones’ previous answer or history of conduct, Mr. Trotter made it clear that he was not attacking him, or even speaking about the Cowboys, but just asking about the league generally.”

Paragraph 116: “Mr. Jones finally responded: ‘If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.’ Mr. Trotter responded by asking if the NFL was going to change its rules requiring purchasers to buy at least 30% of the team and finance deals with no more than $1 billion in debt. Mr. Jones ignored the question.” (Emphasis in original.)

Trotter alleges that he was told by NFL Network management to not mention Jones’s comments on the air.

Jones has issued a denial.

“Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL,” Jones said, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our V.P. of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate.”

First, and as mentioned above, it wasn’t more than three years ago. It happened, if it happened, in August 2021. Roughly 25 months ago.

Second, the conversation will become a major issue in the litigation, with Jones and Trotter and McClay testifying about their recollection. They also will be tested, at some point, by cross-examination.

If Trotter can prove that Jones isn’t telling the truth in denying the comment, it will make his entire case stronger. If Jones can persuade a jury that Trotter is exaggerating or embellishing, the opposite effect potentially occurs.

That makes this potentially dangerous ground for a big personality like Jones. He likes to talk. He likes to win. He likes to win every time he talks. And sometimes he talks and talks and talks until he says something that hurts him.

It’s just one of the specific skirmishes that will play out as the litigation moves forward. And it could give the NFL very good reason to attempt to settle the case, sooner than later.

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