Cardinals to pay former executive Terry McDonough $3 million for ‘false and defamatory’ comments

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An NFL arbitrator ruled the Arizona Cardinals must pay former team executive Terry McDonough $3 million for making “false and defamatory” comments about him to news media.

Arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin determined owner Michael Bidwill and the organization defamed McDonough “with malice” and harmed his reputation in an April 2023 statement attributed to external public relations adviser Jim McCarthy of PR firm CounterPoint Strategies. Michael Caspino, McDonough’s attorney, filed the 62-page decision in federal court Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Athletic.

Mishkin awarded McDonough $2.25 million for punitive damages, $600,000 in damages for emotional distress and $150,000 for harm to his reputation after finding that the Cardinals defamed him by accusing him of “extreme domestic violence” and “abandoning responsibility for his special needs daughter” in the CounterPoint statement.

Mishkin dismissed McDonough’s other claims of unlawful retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

“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,” the Cardinals said in a statement, “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.”

Bidwill, 59, assumed the role of principal owner following the death of his father, Bill, in 2019. Under his watch, the Cardinals’ workplace culture has come under increasing scrutiny and players have given the organization low grades on annual NFL Player Association report cards.

Hired in 2013, McDonough worked his way up from scout to vice president of player personnel. But in January 2023, not long after Arizona hired Monti Ossenfort as its new GM, the organization advised McDonough to find new employment, according to court documents.

McDonough filed an arbitration claim on April 3 accusing the Cardinals of retaliating against him after he told Bidwill he was uncomfortable using “burner” phones to communicate with then-general manager Steve Keim during Keim’s organization-issued, five-week suspension following his arrest on charges of extreme DUI.

The NFL arbitrator determined that the Cardinals did use burner phones to communicate with Keim but did not find evidence that McDonough’s dismissal prevented him from landing an NFL general manager position.

McDonough was accused of choking a neighbor in Mecklenburg County (N.C.) according to court documents last month and has a court date set for April 11 to answer simple assault charges, according to the documents.

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(Photo: Kevin Abele / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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