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Former NHL Player Files Lawsuit Against NBC Claiming Firing Was Anti-Straight Discrimination

hockeyOn Friday, July 17, 2020, former NHL player Jeremy Roenick filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against NBC Sports for wrongful termination.  Roenick’s suit alleges that the network discriminated against him as a straight man by terminating his employment because of off-color remarks he made on a Barstool Sports podcast, in violation New York State’s anti-discrimination sexual orientation and gender discrimination law.  The lawsuit also alleges that NBC Sports breached Roenick’s contract by firing him without cause and failing to provide him with an opportunity to remedy the situation and retaliation for his expressed support of President Trump.

In December 2019, NBC Sports suspended Roenick indefinitely without pay after he made a series of inappropriate remarks on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast about fellow hockey sportscaster, Kathryn Tappen and Patrick Sharp.  In a discussion on the podcast about his vacation in Portugal, Roenick jokingly made comments about having a threesome with his wife and Tappen.  Roenick also called Sharp “beautiful,” and joked that he would have to think twice if given the opportunity to sleep with him. In January Roenick issued an apology for his comments but was subsequently informed by NBC executive Sam Flood in February that he was terminated.

In his lawsuit Roenick alleges that NBC held him to a different standard than fellow sportscasters, ice-skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.  The suit claims that, at the 2018 Olympics, Roenick questioned Sam Flood about “colorful commentary” Johnny Weir made at the games about the body parts of ice skaters and Flood allegedly told him Weir “is gay and can say whatever.”  It also describes another incident that involved a video spoof Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir made in July 2020 of Bradie Tennell, 2018 U.S. national figure skating champion and Olympic team bronze medalist, in which a vulgar term for a woman’s groin was used, and a joke about a sexual affair was made.  NBC Sports spokesperson Dan Masonson responded to the video by simply emphasizing that it was a spoof and stated that the “sketch” could have been completed with generic footage instead of using video of Tennell competing at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  NBC has not commented on Roenick’s lawsuit.

New York State’s anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  The law defines sexual orientation as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.”  If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer based on your sexual orientation contact the New York employment attorneys Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. immediately to schedule a consultation.


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