The Lions are facing a lawsuit made by two former employees which claims they were fired over age/race discrimination. Michael Richardson and Robert Yanagi filed a lawsuit against both the Lions organization and the NFL in Wayne County Circuit Court after being fired in January. The lawsuit alleges they were fired without justification.
According to the lawsuit, Richardson was fired one month after filing a workers’ compensation claim on a shoulder injury he sustained on the job. After filing this claim, Richardson also made a formal complaint to the team’s human resources department about racist comments made by a scout and “disparate treatment by an employee in the Detroit Lions’ Team Operations Department.”
Both Yanagi and Richardson say they asked the unnamed employees to stop making racial comments and jokes. In the lawsuit, Richardson claims that Bob Quinn acknowledged his complaints but also criticized his work as an employee. Members of the team’s organization had allegedly given Richardson a 2.8 out of 5 rating for his work. One of the employees accused of racial jokes and comments gave him a 1 in every category, according to Richardson.
Richardson, age 52, worked for the Lions as the team’s assistant video director since 1991. He started as a janitor in 1989, became an office manager in 1990, and was the first African-American in the NFL to be hired as an assistant video director.
Yanagi, Richardson’s boss, has been the team’s video operation’s director since 2004. He is a 58 year old man of Japanese descent and was also the first ever Japanese NFL director. Both men film practices and games and process footage for coaches to use after games and make in-game adjustments using tablets on the sidelines.
Yanagi was replaced by Erik Kunttu, former video director for Syracuse and the Indianapolis Colts. New Lions coach Matt Patricia was a graduate assistant at Syracuse while Kunttu was employed there.
In the lawsuit, Richardson claims being fired due to “his age, race, and/or in retaliation for his workers’ compensation claim and/or complaint about race discrimination.” Yanagi claims in the lawsuit he was fired due to “his age, race, his complaint about the racist jokes or for his support of Richardson.” The two men are seeking damages in excess of $25,000.
The Lions organization and the NFL have not officially responded yet to the lawsuit. According to a statement to the press, the Lions have no comment at this time. When the Lions and NFL do respond, they will most likely either try to get the case dismissed or answer the allegations directly. If the case does not get dismissed, it will ether go to trial or end in a settlement. There is no word at this time of a set court date.