The NFL wants to have its cake and hide it.
As the league attempts to force the Brian Flores case into arbitration, Flores wants certain information from the league that will be relevant to the issue of whether arbitration is appropriate. The league has refused the request. Flores, through his lawyers, has asked the presiding judge to order the NFL to provide the information.
The argument is simple. Flores (and his co-plaintiffs, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton) believe that certain information will be necessary to the question of whether the league’s request to move the case to arbitration should be granted.
Attached to the six-page letter is a list of 10 different types of materials Flores has requested: (1) all documents regarding the NFL’s policies and procedures regarding arbitration; (2) all documents regarding agreements and policies between the plaintiffs and any NFL team, including contracts, handbooks, and related materials; (3) all documents regarding the Commissioner’s compensation over the past 10 years; (4) all documents regarding the Commissioner’s negotiations regarding his compensation over the past 10 years; (5) all documents regarding the evaluation of the Commissioner’s performance; (6) all documents regarding the Commissioner’s involvement in any dispute involving any NFL team; (7) all documents regarding the Commissioner’s “personal, social, and/or professional relationship with any NFL team owners and/or senior executives” (or, alternatively, a full disclosure of all such relationships); (8) all documents regarding the Commissioner’s “personal, social and/or professional relationship” with any lawyer or law firm representing any of the defendants in the case; (9) all documents regarding any statements or communication among NFL senior executives regarding the plaintiffs, the lawsuit, and the allegations in the complaints; and (10) all documents supporting or undermining the contention that the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims with the NFL.
The plaintiffs also want to question the Commissioner under oath regarding the issues relating to whether the case should be arbitrated.
The effort to compel the NFL to produce the requested information shows that, among other things, Flores and his fellow plaintiffs plan to attack the arbitration process as entailing impermissible bias on the part of the arbitrator — the Commissioner, or his designee. Even though the NFL’s paperwork seeking an order compelling arbitration didn’t even mention the issue, one of the key questions will be whether the Commissioner can provide a fair, neutral, and impartial forum, free from any bias. The plaintiffs want to be able to illustrate the extent of the Commissioner’s obvious bias; he works for the NFL and its team, and he is paid millions of dollars to do so. How can he ever be unbiased when the interests of one or more of the entities who pay him that kind of money are at issue?
Potentially bolstering the bias argument is the fact that, as mentioned in the letter, the NFL immediately declared the Flores case to be “without merit.” If the league run by the Commissioner has already expressed such an opinion, how can the Commissioner be trusted to be fair and impartial?
This effort to gather information could slow down the process of resolving the important question of where the Flores case will be resolved. However, the question of whether it plays out in court or in the NFL’s secret, rigged kangaroo court will go a long way toward determining the eventual outcome.