A former Arizona Cardinals executive and his family sued the team along with the team’s owner, lawyers and crisis communications firm for defamation and other claims in Arizona state court on Wednesday.

An NFL arbitrator awarded Terry McDonough, the team’s former vice president of personnel, $3 million on Friday after finding the team and its owner, Michael Bidwill, had defamed McDonough in a statement issued to the media last April accusing McDonough of spousal abuse and neglect of his disabled adult daughter — allegations McDonough has denied. The team issued the statement in response to an arbitration complaint McDonough filed against Bidwill accusing the owner of unlawful retaliation.

Now McDonough, his wife and his daughter are suing in Arizona Superior Court for defamation, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Cardinals, Bidwill, the team’s crisis communications firm Counterpoint Strategies and its owner Jim McCarthy, and team attorney Don Johnsen and his law firm Gallagher & Kennedy.

“Each of the defendants brought ruin to the McDonough family for no purpose other than to divert attention from the fact Bidwill terminated Terry for refusing Bidwill’s order to use burner phones to get around a suspension of the team’s general manager,” according to a statement from the McDonoughs’ attorney, Mike Caspino. “We look forward to presenting our case to a jury, where Bidwill and the Cardinals will no longer enjoy the protection of the NFL’s rigged arbitration system.”

The Cardinals, their attorneys and Counterpoint Strategies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Cardinals previously said in a statement about the arbitration decision, “We are pleased with the arbitrator’s decision dismissing all of Terry McDonough’s employment claims and finding that there was nothing improper about his dismissal from the team. As for Mr. McDonough’s other claim, we respect the arbitrator’s determination that our initial statement went too far. We accept responsibility for that statement and are grateful that the arbitration is now resolved.”

McDonough, who joined the Cardinals in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension in May 2022 but was relieved of his duties in January 2023, three months before he filed the arbitration complaint.

In his 62-page decision, NFL arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin found the statements made by the team under the guidance of Counterpoint Strategies “false and defamatory.” He dismissed McDonough’s other claims.


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