Terry McDonough accuses Cardinals of defamation, invasion of privacy

May 15, 2023, 2:57 PM | Updated: 3:03 pm

Michael Bidwill...

Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill speaks prior to the NFL football teams' new uniform unveiling April 20, 2023, in Phoenix. The Cardinals and owner Bidwill deny they are liable to front office executive Terry McDonough for any of the claims he made against the team in a demand for arbitration, and say his “erratic behavior eventually damaged his career.” (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Former Arizona Cardinals vice president of player development Terry McDonough has alleged the Arizona Cardinals defamed him and invaded his privacy in the team’s response to his initial allegations of misconduct against owner Michael Bidwill, reports ESPN.

The additions were found in an ESPN-obtained amendment to the complaint sent to NFL-hired arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin.

The Cardinals and Bidwill “publicly disclosed private facts about McDonough” and made “false and defamatory statements about McDonough” that the team knew “to be false” as part of its “effort to intimidate and harass him and his family members,” according to the complaint obtained by ESPN.

“We are aware of the amended complaint and remain confident in our position,” the Cardinals said in a statement to Arizona Sports’ Tyler Drake. “We are precluded from commenting further based on an existing confidentiality order that binds all parties.”

McDonough filed an arbitration claim on April 4 that accused Bidwill of gross misconduct including cheating, discrimination and harassment.

The original claim states that McDonough and former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks “were left no choice” but to follow Bidwill’s directive to use burner phones to communicate with then-general manager Steve Keim, who was at the time suspended due to a DUI.

In a statement external public relations adviser to the Cardinals Jim McCarthy sent to the media, the team said that McDonough’s claims in the arbitration filing are “wildly false, reckless and an opportunistic ploy for financial gain.”

McCarthy’s lengthy statement posted in April includes these two bullet points cited by McDonough’s amendment as “untrue and reprehensible,” according to the latest ESPN report:

– After we hired Terry, we received a spontaneous overture from a close family member of his, writing that he was “troubled and perplexed” about “recent changes in Terry’s behavior” and that Terry had “abandoned responsibility” to one of his children and cut her off financially. He characterized the way Terry “presents his good Dad image” as “all just a ruse” and described the hardship and personal hurt their family was enduring as a result. Nonetheless, we always took Terry at his word about his family situation and his background, even providing support on occasions when he discussed that story publicly or in the press.

– For legal due-diligence reasons, we conducted a records review in recent days that has uncovered a series of disturbing emails to and from Terry’s work email account that include alarming, first-hand allegations of extreme domestic abuse by Terry. Clearly, these latest detailed accounts are even more shocking than the previous behavior by Terry in the workplace that we had already documented. As required under our team and NFL guidelines, we promptly alerted the League to these specifics.

McDonough and his lawyer, Michael Caspino, refused to speak to ESPN for the story published Monday.

ESPN said McDonough and his lawyer are preparing to seek a civil complaint against McCarthy and Counterpoint Strategies in addition to seeking more damages.

The former Cardinals executive’s wife, Lynette, told ESPN after the Cardinals responded to the initial allegations that the comments about McDonough’s family situation were “dishonest.”

“Terry has always taken care of his daughter and his two boys and still, to this day, takes care of his daughter Caroline,” she told ESPN. “I have so much admiration for Terry because he is the kind of man who devoted all his time and energy to his children. He was always there for every game and every event.”

The amended complaint also pushed back on allegations from the Cardinals that McDonough had “volatile” and threatening behavior toward Bidwill and others.

The team says the contract McDonough signed with the team in May 2022 included a waiver of all his legal claims. The Cardinals contend that when new general manager Monti Ossenfort informed McDonough he was not being retained after his contract expires in 2024, “in retaliation (McDonough) filed his arbitration demand and launched a publicity campaign, both of which are full of exaggerations and falsehoods about the Cardinals organization and its president.”

“Mr. McDonough’s filing is full of allegations and assertions that, while colorful, are not true and do not state viable legal claims,” the team’s attorneys said in the response. “Mr. McDonough has been hanging onto this salacious yet fictitious story since the summer of 2018 and occasionally threatened to make it public.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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