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Arizona Cardinals' Executive Alleges Retaliation by Owner Michael Bidwill

The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando, and Stewart Mandel report Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill demoted former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough in 2019 after McDonough objected to a burner hone scheme to allow then-general manager Steve Keim to communicate with the organization. The Cardinals suspended Keim for five weeks. The police arrested him for extreme driving under the influence, defined as driving when one’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.15 percent. The Cardinals suspended Keim, fined him $200,000, and required him to undergo counseling and evaluation and to complete a DUI education course.

McDonough alleges in his arbitration demand Bidwill demoted him from an executive position after he disagreed with the decision to communicate with Keim through a “burner phone” the Cardinals provided to him A “burner phone” is an inexpensive mobile phone designed for temporary, sometimes anonymous, use, after which it may be discarded according to TechTarget.

McDonough alleges that he suffered from “illegal and retaliatory mistreatment and abuse” from Bidwill after McDonough voiced objection to the burner phone scheme, which violated rules set forth for Keim’s suspension. The Cardinals prohibited Keim from contacting the Cardinals and from the team’s facilities during his five-week suspension in 2018. McDonough seeks unspecified damages for breach of contract, retaliation against a whistleblower, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear McDonough’s arbitration hearing against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals issued a statement regarding McDonough’s demand for arbitration. It states: “We are reluctantly obliged to provide a public response along with broader context for some disappointing and irresponsible actions by Terry McDonough.” “[The c]laims he has made in an arbitration filing are wildly false, reckless, and an opportunistic ploy for financial gain.” Jim McCarthy, an external public relations adviser to the Cardinals acknowledged the burner phone plan, and he blamed a nameless team executive for “obtaining mobile phones for communicating during the suspension period.” He credits Michael Bidwill for stopping the burner phone scheme.

The NFL received McDonough’s claim last Tuesday, and the demand will be handled under the league’s arbitration procedures. McDonough alleges that between July 18-20, 2018, the burner phones were distributed at Bidwill’s direction to top team executives and head coach Steve Wilks. McDonough and Wilks objected to the burner phones.

McDonough claims that when he spoke to Bidwill about his and Wilks’ objection to the burner phone scheme, Bidwill screamed at him at a high volume and he accused McDonough of insubordination. Allegedly, Bidwill wrote McDonough up for unprofessional conduct in the workplace after this incident. McDonough, the organization’s vice president of player personnel, alleges Bidwill bullied, belittled, and criticized him. He alleges Bidwill demoted him to senior personnel executive, dropping his salary from $550,000 per year to $330,000 per year. He alleges this demotion occurred due to his objection against the burner phone scheme. In 2022, Bidwill demoted McDonough again, accompanied by another pay reduction. Keim resigned from his general manager position in January of 2023.

Alex Patterson is a Thomas M. Cooley Law School graduate and works for the City of

Springfield’s Corporate Counsel as a paralegal. He played football for seventeen years

as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-

Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Sports Management. He can be followed on

Twitter @alpatt71.

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