Two former Lions employees sue team and league for discrimination

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At a time when the NFL is wrestling with a collection of legal claims arising from a unique issue like protests during the national anthem, the Lions and the NFL are dealing with a more conventional legal challenge.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, a pair for former Lions employees have filed suit against the team and the league, alleging race and age discrimination. The plaintiffs are Robert Yanagi, the Lions’ former director of video operations, and Michael Richardson, an assistant video director.

The Lions acknowledged the lawsuit but had no comment, citing the ongoing nature of the litigation.

Yanagi, 58, is Japanese by descent. Richardson, 52, is African-American.

Richardson contends that he complained to the team’s human resources department in December 2017, claiming that he was the subject of “racist comments by an employee in the Detroit Lions scouting department and disparate treatment by an employee” of the operations department.

“There were comments made about both of my clients in regards to their race,” attorney Angela Mannarino told Birkett. “It was commonplace for comments to be made of that nature and that’s why Michael went to H.R. and made the complaint about what was going on because it made him very uncomfortable. And then Robert supported his complaint, supported what he was saying, and then shortly thereafter they’re both out the door.”

Richardson contends that, within days after making his complaint, Lions G.M. Bob Quinn met with Richardson and expressed “concerns about Richardson’s work performance.” Coaches also allegedly gave Richardson unfavorable internal ratings after he made the complaint.

The league and the team will eventually respond to the complaint, either by answering the allegations or attempting to dismiss the case. If the lawsuit survives any preliminary attempt to get it thrown out of court, depositions and other discovery will occur, culminating in a settlement, dismissal of the case via summary judgment, or a trial.