Former NBA lawyer to arbitrate Cardinals dispute
The NFL has selected the NBA’s former top lawyer to arbitrate an employment dispute between Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and the team’s former vice president of player personnel, Terry McDonough.
Jeffrey Mishkin, the former chief legal officer for the NBA, will “serve as the hearing officer” in the dispute, according to an email sent by the NFL’s general counsel Jeff Pash and reviewed by ESPN. The email is dated April 18.
Mishkin led the NBA’s in-house legal department for seven years before becoming the head of sports practice at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. According to the firm’s website, he’s represented the PGA Tour, NFL, NHL, MLB, multiple NBA teams, as well as the NCAA. He belongs to the alternative dispute resolution firm Phillips ADR and has served as an arbitrator with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and with the American Arbitration Association North American Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Through its spokesman, the NFL declined to comment on Mishkin’s selection or the ongoing dispute.
McDonough accused Bidwill of gross misconduct, including cheating, discrimination and harassment, in an arbitration claim sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on April 4.
McDonough maintained that both he and former Cardinals coach Steve Wilks were left with no choice but to follow Bidwill’s plan to use burner phones to communicate with former Arizona general manager Steve Keim while Keim was serving a five-week suspension after pleading guilty to extreme DUI in Arizona.
Wilks has declined ESPN’s request for comment.
The Cardinals and Bidwill filed their legal response on Monday in which they cited several instances of what they described as McDonough’s “erratic behavior” that they claim “eventually damaged his career,” according to the Associated Press.
In documents obtained by the AP, the team says the contract McDonough signed with the Cardinals in May 2022 included a waiver of all his legal claims. The Cardinals contend that when new general manager Monti Ossenfort informed McDonough he was not being retained after his contract expires in 2024, “in retaliation (McDonough) filed his arbitration demand and launched a publicity campaign, both of which are full of exaggerations and falsehoods about the Cardinals organization and its President.”
“Mr. McDonough’s filing is full of allegations and assertions that, while colorful, are not true and do not state viable legal claims,” the team’s attorneys said in the response. “Mr. McDonough has been hanging onto this salacious yet fictitious story since the summer of 2018 and occasionally threatened to make it public.”
Team attorneys say the “burner phones” were distributed shortly after Keim’s team-imposed suspension by a senior football executive who is no longer with the organization. When Bidwill learned about it, he ordered the phones to be collected and told the executive the disposable phone idea was misguided and inconsistent with terms of Keim’s suspension. Bidwill was permitted by the NFL to speak to Keim during the suspension. Wilks refused to accept a phone and McDonough was the only person who didn’t turn his in.
McDonough told ESPN he still has the burner phone, which he said contains the evidence of the cheating scandal, as well as additional documentation.
As part of his arbitration duties, Mishkin will next determine a schedule for legal discovery and depositions, which are expected to take at least several months.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.