Jonas Schwartz, a veteran sportscaster with SportsNet New York, is planning a multi-million-dollar lawsuit alleging that he was being fired for being white.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has received an official complaint from Schwartz's attorney after SNY refused to renew the 45-year-old's contract after 14 years. Schwartz claims the network cut him after he objected to his bosses when a co-worker complained about working with "a couple of white guys."
Jeané Coakley, who is the daughter of a black father and white mother, was invited onto SNY's network to appear with Schwartz, Ralph Vacchiano, and Bart Scott during a special series on social justice and sports. Schwartz and Vacchiano are both white, while Scott is black.
When it came time to film the second episode, Scott was unable to appear. Coakley then expressed her disgust with having to be on the same program with the two white broadcasters.
"Ms. Coakley went on to say in a loud, pained voice, ‘No offense, but I don't want to do this with a couple of white guys," the EEOC complaint describes. "You can't understand what we are going through. Why are we doing this with white guys?'"
In response to Coakley's complaint, the episode taping was rescheduled, Vacchiano and Schwartz were dropped, and another black broadcaster, Jamal Westerman, was added to join Coakley and Scott.
Schwartz pushed his frustration with his bosses, who seemed to agree that pulling "a talented, professional host because of [his] race" was not appropriate, according to the complaint. Then, two months later, Schwartz was told his job was being eliminated.
"The employer admitted its race-based decision was improper, but then promptly retaliated against Jonas by terminating him for asserting his right to work in an environment free of discrimination," Schwartz's attorney said in an interview. "All employees are entitled to be judged based on their merits, and the content of their character, not the color of their skin."
SNY said that it had not been informed of any lawsuit and had no further comment.