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Two Former Lions Employees Sue the Organization, Clam Discrimination

Two former Lions employees who claim they experienced unequal treatment and disparaging comments because of their race have filed suit against the team, alleging they were fired because of racial and age discrimination, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Robert Yanagi, the Lions’ long-time director of video operations, and assistant video director Michael Richardson filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court last month seeking damages in excess of $25,000 for being terminated in January “without justification.”

The Lions released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying, “we are aware of the report. Because the report involves ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”

Yanagi, a 58-year-old man of Japanese descent, responded to requests for comment Tuesday. Richardson, a 52-year-old African-American, could not be reached for comment.

The Lions fired both Yanagi and Richardson in January, while retaining two video assistants, and replaced them in February with former Syracuse and Indianapolis Colts video director Erik Kunttu.

According to the suit, which also names the NFL as a defendant, Richardson complained to the Lions’ human resources department last December that he was subjected to “racist comments by an employee in the Detroit Lions scouting department and disparate treatment by an employee” of the team’s operations department.

In the same meeting, Richardson said that Yanagi previously asked the same employee to “stop making jokes about his race,” the filing says.

Days after Richardson’s complaint, Lions general manager Bob Quinn met with Richardson and acknowledged his complaint of race discrimination, the suit says, while also raising “concerns about Richardson’s work performance.”


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