Former St. Louis Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt is suing the team for age discrimination. Hewitt filed the case this week in the Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis County.
Hewitt's case goes all the way back to January 7, 2011, when he was fired, after 40 years with the team, by former head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Hewitt served as the team's equipment manager since 1985, and worked for the team for 40 years, spanning homes in Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In the suit, the plaintiff says that Spagnuolo made statements claiming that Hewitt was "too old for his job" as early as 2009 . According to Hewitt, Spagnuolo used the term "NFL, not for long" to describe the equipment manager's employment situation.
The suit describes Hewitt's firing, which apparently was conduct consistent with most dismissals. Spagnuolo called him into his office, where former GM Billy Devaney was present, and told him that they "were going in a different direction" and even offered to write a glowing recommendation.
Hewitt contacted Chip Rosenbloom, son of former owner Georgia Frontiere and Carroll Rosenbloom and still an owner at the time, who told the long-time equipment manager that his firing "shouldn't have happened."
Age discrimination was common at Rams Park under Spagnuolo and Devaney, according to Hewitt's suit. he claims at least seven other employees over the age of 40 were fired. Those named in the suit (they are not listed as plaintiffs) are: Dan Linza, age 70 (head of security); John Oswald, 52 (vice president of operations); Jim Anderson, 54 (trainer); Ray Ogas, 60 (director of player relations); Pam Benoist, 68 (skybox coordinator); and Bill Stover, 64 (team photographer).
All were replaced by younger employees, according to the suit.
Hewitt does not list a specific amount he is seeking for a remedy in the suit. He is seeking to recoup costs and damages associated with his firing.
Next, we'll see how far this lawsuit proceeds. If it goes to court, Spagnuolo, Devaney and others will likely have to testify. It could be another undesirable sideshow for the St. Louis Rams, who are in the midst of untangling the damage done by prior administrations and involved in a tense round of stadium lease negotiations.
You can read the lawsuit here.