Florida-based sports apparel giant pays $322,000 to settle racial discrimination suit

gavel in courtroom
gavel in courtroom Getty Images

Fanatics, a Jacksonville-based licensed sports merchandise company, denies a string of racial discrimination allegations leveled by a black employee in an EEOC lawsuit: That he was asked if he could read because “a lot of you guys can’t read,” that a general manager referred to black employees as “monkeys” or “Africans” and many other accusations.

But the company also has agreed to pay former employee Vincent Perkins $57,050 in back pay and $265,000 in compensatory damages, a total of $322,050 as part of a consent decree settling an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission federal court lawsuit filed last summer on behalf of Perkins.

“The agreement to enter into this Decree shall not be construed as an admission of liability by Fanatics as to any allegations by EEOC or Perkins,” reads the consent decree, which was filed April 17. “Fanatics denies the allegations in the Complaint and Amended Complaint and denies that it violated Title VII.”

In an emailed statement, a Fanatics spokesperson said, “We are pleased to have resolved this matter with the EEOC with no finding of liability against Fanatics. We are committed to maintaining a diverse, inclusive and harassment-free environment for all Fanatics employees. The allegations from five years ago do not represent the values we stand for as a company.”

Fanatics sells sports merchandise licensed by the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL, several colleges and professional sports franchises. As noted in this Samford University article, in 2020, Fanatics begins a lucrative 10-year licensing deal with Nike and the NFL.

A survey by ranked Fanatics CEO Doug Mack and the company each 14th in diversity among CEOs and companies.

Perkins was hired to work in the Screen Department on July 18, 2012, and claims he was hit with a racial slur from a team leader on his first day. The suit claimed after voicing complaints about what he saw as unfair treatment of black employees, his supervisor “told him that he would never be promoted.”

The suit says a former Fanatics Operations Administrator said, “If any employee complains about the injustice being done, that person will be retaliated (against). Retaliation at this place from the HR Manager is 100 percent that (the) employee gets fired or is (forced) out.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.