NFL, Players Association Beat Athlete’s Bias Suit For Good – Law360
By Caleb Drickey
Law360 (March 16, 2023, 7:26 PM EDT) — A Florida federal judge on Thursday permanently tossed ex-NFL linebacker Junior Galette’s claims that he was the victim of a racist blackballing from the league, ruling that the former player failed to demonstrate how the league, teams or the NFL Players Association discriminated against him.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled that the ex-linebacker failed to correct deficiencies in his allegations regarding ostensible similarities with a white comparator or the acts of discrimination he endured. Instead, the judge held that the player’s amended complaint and subsequent filings merely reiterated overly-vague claims.
“The allegations within the [second amended complaint] are even more conclusory than those within the original complaint,” Judge Bloom said.
Thursday’s ruling closes the book on Galette’s claims that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and seven teams discriminated against him by offering no deal more substantial than a $4 million contract before blackballing him. In December, the court dismissed Galette’s initial complaint, ruling that he insufficiently alleged that white ex-teammate Trent Murphy was a similarly situated comparator or that he would have received a higher contract offer but for the league’s racism.
Galette’s amended claims fared no better, Judge Bloom ruled. Although the self-represented Galette claims that the league’s ownership structure, which he incorrectly claims consists exclusively of white team owners and league executives, was “directly and circumstantially” discriminatory, the judge said that the former player failed to identify any specific discriminatory action taken by the league or its teams.
Better offers made by teams to Murphy, who Galette said was less talented, did not qualify as discriminatory acts, the judge said.
The judge ruled that Galette’s assertions of speech right violations also failed because he did not assert that any state actors threatened his freedom to express himself. Because the former linebacker repeatedly failed to state viable claims despite court instructions regarding the deficiencies in his pleadings, Judge Bloom dismissed the suit with prejudice, without giving him opportunities to amend and refile his action.
Galette sued the NFL, seven of its teams, and the NFL Players Association in August 2022. In his initial complaint, he likened himself to former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying that he was blackballed from the league after he derided contracts that teams offered him as “slave deals” on social media.
In February, Galette said in response to the league’s dismissal bid that the NFL’s attorneys were third parties with “no first-hand knowledge of any facts,” and that any statements made on behalf of their clients was inadmissible hearsay.
David Greenspan, counsel for the NFLPA, declined to comment on Thursday.
Representatives for Goodell and the defendant teams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Galette, who is representing himself, did not respond to a request for comment.
Goodell, the Cleveland Browns, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Commanders, the Carolina Panthers, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams are represented by Spencer Hal Silverglate of Clarke Silverglate PA and by Benjamin C. Block of Covington & Burling LLP.
The NFL Players Association is represented by David L. Greenspan and Jared R. Kessler of Winston & Strawn LLP.
The case is Galette v. Goodell et al., case number 0:22-cv-61565, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
–Additional reporting by Jade Martinez-Pogue and David Steele. Editing by Leah Bennett.
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