Former Cardinals executive accuses owner Michael Bidwill of cheating and discrimination: report

Former Arizona Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

According to ESPN, McDonough accuses Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill of gross misconduct, including cheating, discrimination and harassment. One of the claims mentions prohibited communication with then-Cardinals general manager Steve Keim while he served a suspension after he pled guilty to a DUI in Arizona.

McDonough also hinted that he and ex-Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks were coerced into Bidwill’s plan to communicate with Keim via burner phones.


McDonough added that he still has the phone in his possession. In a response sent to ESPN, the Cardinals organization strongly denied the allegations.

“We are reluctantly obliged to provide a public response along with broader context for some disappointing and irresponsible actions by Terry McDonough,” external public relations adviser to the Cardinals Jim McCarthy said in a statement. “Claims he has made in an arbitration filing are wildly false, reckless and an opportunistic ploy for financial gain.

“Our position was consistent with many efforts we’ve made to accommodate Terry during his time with the team despite difficulties in his personal life and his often volatile demeanor toward colleagues. That’s why we are saddened to see that Terry is now lashing out at our organization with disparagements and threats that are absurdly at odds with the facts. This unnecessary and vindictive action by Terry was intended to malign his co-workers, our owner Michael Bidwill and our team with outlandish accusations.”


McDonough was the Cardinals’ vice president of player personnel from 2014 to 2019.

In the filing, McDonough stated that he and Wilks “objected to and sought to avoid participation in a scheme hatched by Bidwill to utilize burner phones to communicate with general manager Steve Keim — in violation of the terms of Keim’s suspension for extreme DUI — during a critical period of the Cardinals training camp in the summer of 2018.

“In response to McDonough’s objection to the illicit burner phone scheme, Bidwill cursed at, berated, and formally reprimanded McDonough, and ultimately demoted him.”

The Cardinals told ESPN that Bidwill took “swift action” and directed that phones be retrieved and “communications stopped.”

McDonough also claimed that he was denied the opportunity to further advance his career in the NFL after he refused to do Bidwill’s alleged bidding. 

The Cardinals have denied blocking McDonough’s professional career. He is seeking damages for breach of contract and emotional distress.


According to the league’s dispute resolution procedural policies, the Cardinals will be given 20 days to formally respond to McDonough’s claims.

On Tuesday, the NFL released a statement saying, “We can confirm receipt of the claim, which will be handled under the league’s arbitration procedures.” 

McDonough said he believes he is speaking up for a group of Cardinals employees who might be fearful to say anything against Bidwill. He said the manner in which he was treated was “consistent with a pattern of workplace misconduct by Bidwill that is endemic and the hallmark of his stewardship of the storied Cardinals franchise.”

The grievance also stated Bidwill brought tears to the eyes of two pregnant women by yelling at them with “abusive and bullying mistreatment.”

McDonough said he can prove that, in 2019, members of the Cardinals executive leadership conducted an employee survey, only to later have the results intercepted by Bidwill.

“Many of the employees who responded to the survey indicated that they were fearful of Bidwill on a daily basis, as a result of Bidwill’s erratic and often abusive interactions with them,” the filing said.

The Cardinals responded by saying that “the 2019 employee survey referenced in the complaint was not ignored but in fact formed the basis for significant enhancements to our workplace practices. That included creating a new role for a Chief People Officer along with boosting our Human Resources staff and adding robust employee wellness initiatives.”

Wilks was fired after he finished with a 3-13 record in 2018. Wilks recently joined a racial discrimination class-action lawsuit brought by former Miami Dolphins head coach and current Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

“The passage of time and exposure of the facts have revealed those comments to be almost perverse in their inaccuracy, misguidedness, and gaslighting nature. Steve Wilks has demonstrated that he is a skilled NFL head coach when he is not forced to cheat and is given an opportunity to succeed. And contrary to Keim’s statement, neither he nor Bidwill have ever been held to account for their illicit actions during the 2018 preseason,” the grievance stated about Wilks.

The Cardinals also pushed back by highlighting several incidents they said were in direct violation of our guidelines and the mutual trust in our workplace.” The team also claimed McDonough struggled to get along with colleagues.

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