On Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press dug up court records that revealed two former Detroit Lions employees that were terminated earlier in the year, Robert Yanagi and Michael Richardson, have filed suit against the team based on age and race discrimination. It’s unclear what stage the lawsuit is in, but the Free Press notes that it requested an April 5 trial.
For Yanagi, this isn’t the first time his family has been involved in a suit against an NFL team. Yanagi’s brother, Keith, was a long-time head of video operations for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2011, Keith and “a lot” of older employees were ousted by 49ers owner Jed York in an effort to bring in a younger workforce, according to Yanagi.
As a result, Keith, and his former coworker Anthony Lozano, filed an age discrimination lawsuit against York in 2015. York said, according to the lawsuit, he went with younger, Silicon Valley workers because, “they made a lot of money, they did a lot of cool things before they turned 40 years old, and they don’t want to play golf six days a week.”
The two sides reach an undisclosed settlement outside of court, while the 49ers publicly admitted no wrongdoing.
The story is remarkably similar to that of the lawsuit filed against the Lions. Detroit, too, has a relatively young, new manager in Bob Quinn. Over the course of three years, Quinn has purged a lot of a long-time employees, including Yanagi and Richardson.
However, there is one significant difference in the lawsuit against the Lions: the racial discrimination allegations (you can read the full lawsuit here, courtesy of the Detroit News). The lawsuit claims that an employee of the scouting department made racist comments and jokes, which ultimately led to a poor peer review against Richardson after Richardson filed a complaint against him.
We’ll see if the Lions take a similar route to the 49ers and settle this out of court, or if they decide to fight this in front of a jury.