WASHINGTON — With so many layers of Scot McCloughan’s firing still unfolding, many fans have wondered if the former General Manager might have grounds for a potential lawsuit against the Redskins organization.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a former lawyer who no longer practices, maintains enough understanding of law to at least explain how a potential McCloughan lawsuit against the Redskins might take shape.
It’s important to note that, publicly, the Redskins have not acknowledged their reason for firing McCloughan.
But, privately, an anonymous Redskins official, at the time of McCloughan’s firing, told The Washington Post: “He’s had multiple relapses due to alcohol. He showed up in the locker room drunk on multiple occasions. …This has been a disaster for 18 months.”
How might McCloughan take legal action?
“If he was fired not for reasons of alcoholism, but for some sort of rift between him and Allen, and it is being sent out there by the team that was for alcoholism, would he have a potential lawsuit there?” Chad Dukes asked Florio Thursday on 106.7 The Fan.
“He would have a grievance against the team which would be resolved through the NFL,” Florio said.
“And good luck getting the commissioner, who is hired and paid for by Dan Snyder and his 31 colleagues, to give the employee who is trying to get justice the fairest possible shake,” he said. “It’s just an inherent conflict of interest, and how can you expect the commissioner to say to one of his bosses, ‘You screwed up, pay this guy money,’ when the boss is saying ‘I did everything right’?”
Grounds for potential litigation
“Now, a lawsuit would be possible for anything the falls beyond the employment relationship,” Florio said. “For example, a defamation claim, if it’s not true that he had alcohol issues. That would be a potential grounds for litigation, and also the overlap between his contract and the federal and state human rights laws that would protect him against disability discrimination for an actual or perceived disability based on alcoholism.
“And that’s where it gets tricky, because you’re protected against discrimination on the basis of being an alcoholic, but you’re not protected against manifestations of the disease at work. For example: We’re getting rid of this guy because he’s a drunk. Okay, you can’t do that, generally. We’re getting rid of this guy because he was drunk at his desk. You can do that.”
“So it’s a strange minefield for a team to operate in,” he said. “And it makes it harder to get to the truth and resolve the case if the team is saying on one hand, it had nothing to do with alcohol, and on the other hand, there are leaks to The Washington Post that it did, and on the third hand, if that’s even physically possible, you have the team knowing, or at least it should have known, that Scot McCloughan was still using alcohol when he was hired back in 2015 due to the ESPN The Magazine article in which he admitted it less than a month before McCloughan became the GM of the team.”
“There are multiple issues in the stew and I would not be surprised if the truth is that McCloughan, via his agents and lawyers, are talking to Washington about some sort of a resolution short of litigation,” he said. “Because litigation would have happened by now if he was dead set on pulling the pin on a hand grenade, either with the league office or in a separate legal setting.”
Michael Robinson Interview
Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who maintains a close personal relationship with McCloughan, shared details of a recent conversation he had with McCloughan with Richmond radio station Fox Sports 910. It was the first time anyone had gone on record to speak on behalf of McCloughan since his firing three weeks ago.
According to Robinson, Redskins team president Bruce Allen called McCloughan into his office after the NFL Combine, allegedly telling McCloughan, “Nobody likes you in this building. Nobody wants you here.”
“I wouldn’t assume that [McCloughan] gave [Robinson] the thumbs up that it’s okay to talk about it,” Florio said. “Would this be the first time that somebody has a conversation with someone, and that person decides to go with it?
“You know, a lot of times what happens, even though Michael Robinson’s a media guy, a lot of times what happens is a guy’s doing a radio station in a local market, it’s not a huge market, and it’s very possible that there’s an assumption that whatever I say here isn’t really gonna be heard, it isn’t gonna be used against me. I’m just having a conversation. The words disappear into the ether.”
“I wouldn’t assume that Robinson was put out there with any type of an understanding by McCloughan that it was going to be said, that McCloughan wanted it to be said,” he said. “I think that there’s a different way and a better way to get your message out if that’s your message. Let’s not assume that. There’s a chance that Michael Robinson may be regretting saying what he said, because McCloughan may have called him up and said, ‘Michael, what the hell are you doing?’
“If there is potential litigation,” Florio added, “the smart thing for McCloughan is to say nothing to anyone.”