Pat Leonard’s NFL notes: Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit a key topic as NFL owners gather in Phoenix

Tribune Content Agency

The biggest story in the NFL is not Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders, officiating, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers, Thursday Night Football flexing or any proposed rule change — although those are all worthy of note in their own right.

The biggest story in football, as the NFL owners meetings begin Sunday at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix is that Brian Flores’ discrimination cases against the NFL, Giants, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are headed toward an open federal court in front of a jury.

Mary Jo White’s somehow-incomplete investigation into Snyder deserves the national media’s skepticism, too. It’s amazing how little accountability exists when there isn’t public video of any alleged transgressions.

But the potential consequences of Flores’ case are massive, considering it is now on a path toward discovery in the form of evidence gathering of texts, emails and depositions of key figures in the league and at least three of its franchises.

That’s the course it is expected to proceed on shortly.

At the moment, both sides’ attorneys are filing their own motions of reconsideration, asking U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni to revisit elements of her March 1 ruling.

Flores’ attorneys, bringing a class action suit and claims against various defendants, are arguing that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is an unfit and partial arbitrator for the claims that Caproni sent to arbitration.

Attorneys for the NFL and teams, meanwhile, want Caproni to reconsider sending such a significant amount of claims into a public court, where their alleged dirty laundry could be laid bare.

A pretrial conference originally scheduled for Friday was adjourned and delayed as the motions are gathered and filed in a process that should drag through April.

The judge conceivably could reconsider and alter her original ruling, but it’s more likely that she will uphold her original decision and continue steering the case down the same path.

It’s not clear how the NFL’s and teams’ attorneys will react and proceed once the day comes for discovery to begin.

This wouldn’t seem to be your typical lawsuit either, whether 11th-hour settlements often prevent cases from heading to court.

This profiles as a class action suit intended to correct alleged inherent inequities in the NFL’s hiring practices — not to score someone a payday.

Be sure, though, that while the league and its owners surely aren’t voluntarily making this lawsuit a constant topic of public discussion, it is front of mind for everyone.

The NFL is presenting its 2023 owners meetings under the headline: “A Year of Confronting Challenges and Raising the Bar,” with copious statistics provided to media on improvements, including in the area of “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

It all says: See, we’re doing better, and we will continue to.

As Caproni said in her March 1 ruling, however, “plaintiffs’ descriptions of their experiences of racial discrimination — which allegedly are only the most recent chapter in the NFL’s long history of systematic discrimination toward Black players, coaches, and managers — are incredibly troubling.”

Eventually, this is headed to court.

Around the league

Concerning Lamar Jackson: why are all of the leaks about the Baltimore Ravens quarterback’s free agency situation coming from the league, union and teams? From Jackson’s contract demands to representation situation to teams’ unusually publicized lack of interest in the former MVP, there is a whole lot of negative information coming out about this elite young player — yet very few details are coming from him. It seems obvious many of the relevant parties would feel more comfortable if Jackson, 26, played this game the comfortable and traditional way — with an agent who has preexisting relationships with these team executives, within a structure that people can control, with a contract that doesn’t further disrupt the quarterback market by leapfrogging Deshaun Watson’s ridiculous, fully-guaranteed deal. But it is on Jackson to do things the way that the league, union and agents want him to them. And while noise builds on what Jackson is supposedly doing wrong, if you listen closely enough, the real problem seems to be that he’s simply doing them differently. …

Raiders free agent tight end Foster Moreau discovered he has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during a routine physical with the New Orleans Saints, he announced this week. So he will be stepping away from the game. “Through somewhat of a miraculous process, this Free Agency period has been life changing for me,” Moreau, 25, announced on Twitter. “During a routine physical conducted by the Saint’s [sic] medical team down in New Orleans, I’ve come to learn that I have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and will be stepping away from football at this time to fight a new opponent: Cancer. I’m grateful for the support and thankful for people who have stood firm with me. There hasn’t been a single step I’ve taken without hundreds of people lighting the path before me, and I will continue to seek their guidance. That being said, I’ll go kick this thing’s ass and get back to doing what I love!” …

The Giants’ and Jets’ offseason programs will begin on April 17. Only teams with first-year head coaches can start a week earlier. The Giants’ and Jets’ OTA offseason workouts then are scheduled for May 22, 23, 25, 30 and 31, and June 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9. That will culminate for both teams in a mandatory minicamp June 13-15. Each club will host a post-draft rookie minicamp, as well, but those dates are not yet determined.

They said it

“I’m the storm.” — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, in limbo, on Twitter