Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula allegedly made a racist comment about Black NFL pro athletes in the National Football League, according to a racial discrimination lawsuit against the league filed Tuesday by longtime reporter Jim Trotter, according to ESPN.
Trotter alleges in the lawsuit that in 2020, a fellow NFL Media reporter ( who was not identified in the lawsuit) had recalled a conversation he had with Pegula, who was speaking to the reporter about the NFL’s social justice initiatives and Black Lives Matter.
The reporter allegedly informed Trotter and approximately 40 other NFL Media coworkers during a Zoom call that Pegula said, “If the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
The lawsuit goes on to state Trotter, who is Black and one of the well know NFL journalists in the industry, pressed executives at NFL Media to investigate Pegula’s comments, which were “highly offensive and racist,” but that he was “repeatedly brushed off and told that ‘the league office is investigating it.'”
Pegula issued a statement denying the claims.
“The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false,” Pegula said Tuesday in an official statement. “I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind. Racism has no place in our society and I am personally disgusted that my name is associated with this complaint.”
The lawsuit also mentions Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, alleging that Jones told Trotter in 2020 that “If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire.”
The comments by Jones were allegedly made during a conversation with Cowboys executive Will McClay, who is Black, and Trotter about “why teams have so few Black decision-makers,” according to the lawsuit.
Trotter would describe the exchange as “rather contentious,” said that Jones ultimately suggested that he and Trotter “should ‘agree to disagree’ about the NFL’s issues with race.”
Jones issued his own statement saying that the lawsuit’s “representation” of his exchange with Trotter is “simply not accurate.”
“Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL,” Jones said. “The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate.”
The NFL issued a statement that also disputed Trotter’s allegations and claims.
“We share Jim Trotter’s passion for quality journalism created in and supported by a diverse and inclusive environment,” the NFL said. “We take his concerns seriously, but strongly dispute his specific allegations, particularly those made against his dedicated colleagues at NFL Media.”
The league also addressed Trotter’s exit from the league-owned NFL Media earlier this year, stating that Trotter’s contract was not renewed as a result of business decisions made to address “a challenging economy and a changing media environment.”
Trotter is seeking unspecified damages and called for a “full-scale investigation into the discriminatory and/or retaliatory animus of all persons in position of power within the NFL, including the NFL team owners.”
“The NFL and team owners have repeatedly shown they are unable to monitor and police themselves, making these equitable measures a necessary component of any awarded relief,” the lawsuit says.
Trotter currently works for The Athletic and is now being represented by the law firm that represented former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.
ESPN and The Associated Press are covering this story.