Black NFL coaches seek to question Commissioner Goodell in bias case

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NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) - Three Black coaches who have accused the National Football League in a lawsuit of racist hiring practices want to question league Commissioner Roger Goodell under oath as they try to keep the case in federal court rather than move to arbitration.

In a court filing on Friday, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and two other coaches also asked U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni to direct the NFL to share documents regarding Goodell's compensation and how it was negotiated, and whether team owners think the commissioner is doing a good job.

"These documents will demonstrate Mr. Goodell's extreme personal financial interest in maintaining his position and the level to which he is financially beholden to the NFL and its teams," the coaches' lawyers wrote.

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A deposition of Goodell might also uncover additional evidence of "arbitrator bias," the lawyers added.

The NFL has said the suit should be dismissed because the claims lack legal merit, or else sent to arbitration. read more

Neither a spokesperson for the NFL nor the league's lawyers immediately responded to requests for comment. The league has said its arbitration process is fair.

Flores sued the NFL in February in Manhattan federal court, accusing teams of conducting "sham interviews" with Black candidates to satisfy a policy requiring minorities be considered, and paying Black coaches less than their white counterparts. read more

Two more Black coaches, former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and longtime assistant coach Ray Horton, joined as plaintiffs in the proposed class action in April.

The NFL has denied the claims, and asked that the dispute be resolved in its closed-door arbitration process.

Goodell would be the league's designated mediator. The coaches have said he would be biased because the teams employ him. read more

The league has since 2003 required teams to consider minority candidates for head coaching vacancies under its so-called Rooney Rule, and in 2009 expanded the rule to cover general manager jobs.

Flores has said he underwent "sham" interviews for coaching jobs with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos to comply with the Rooney Rule.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Flores as the team's senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach three weeks after he sued the league.

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Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Reports on the New York federal courts. Previously worked as a correspondent in Venezuela and Argentina.