At every NFL game, the league assigns a veteran security official to help coordinate logistics for the two squads, game officials and team owners; inspect locker rooms; meet with law enforcement agencies and stadium security personnel; count any prescription drugs that are distributed and even monitor and record the air pressure in the game balls. It’s an unseen but essential position.

The league allegedly replaced several of these veteran security representatives last year, and nine filed a federal lawsuit this week charging the NFL with age discrimination. The men were all in their 60s or 70s and allege they were unfairly replaced by younger hires shortly after former D.C. police chief Cathy L. Lanier took over as the NFL’s head of security.

“On her arrival at the NFL, Lanier let it be known that she was the new sheriff in town,” states the complaint, filed Monday in the Southern District of New York. “Almost immediately, rumors swirled that Lanier was planning to fire [security representatives], creating an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. But that was precisely her intention. Ruling by fear and intimidation is Lanier’s ‘management’ style.”

Eight of the plaintiffs were assigned to a team’s market, including for the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins, and their tenures with the league ranged from 11 to 49 years. All are licensed private investigators and came to their NFL positions after working as police detectives, FBI agents or state troopers.

“They all are mentally fit, physically fit and vibrant,” the complaint states. “They suffer from no physical ailments or limitations that have, or would in the future, affect their job performance.”

The nine former security representatives are seeking at least $10 million and say they’ve “suffered substantial damages, including, but not limited to, lost past and future wages and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, and mental anguish.”

Reached for comment, an NFL spokesman said: “The allegations in this case have no merit. The challenged decisions were the result of a wide and objective selection process led by Cathy Lanier. Ms. Lanier is a highly respected NFL executive and former Washington D.C. police chief with demonstrated impeccable integrity and judgment. We will vigorously defend these claims.

The league relies on several local, state and federal agencies to assist with security and law enforcement. It has one security representative assigned to a team’s market, and that individual is usually at the middle of everything. The security official has a long list of game-day responsibilities but is also charged with assisting in background checks, drug audits and investigations.

Two of the plaintiffs — James Buckley and Mario Di Fonzo — played prominent roles in the league’s investigation into former running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence in 2014. The lawsuit says the NFL’s security representatives “are essential to the NFL’s operations.”

“It is the SRs who are the ‘eyes and ears of the NFL’ on the field and in the stadium,” the complaint states.

Lanier joined the NFL in 2016 and last April, according to the lawsuit, told the security representatives that the league was “moving in a different direction” and soliciting requests for proposals for the positions. The jobs are independent contractor positions, though the plaintiffs contend they were misclassified and were, in fact, treated as employees.

The nine plaintiffs responded to the requests for proposal but none was interviewed, according to the complaint, which contends the exercise was merely a way for the league to get rid of the veteran employees.

“The evidence is overwhelming: ‘Moving in a different direction’ was code for illegal age discrimination,” the complaint contends.

In July, the plaintiffs were told they were being let go. Their replacements were all between 10 and 25 years younger.

Of one plaintiff — the 74-year-old Buckley, who lives in New Jersey and was assigned to New York Giants games — the lawsuit states that Lanier told Michael Rahill, the NFL’s former director of security, that “ ‘everyone loves JB,’ but that 70 is too old to walk the stadium,” according to the complaint.

“Buckley is an avid gym-goer and weightlifter, he has a second-degree black belt in karate, a brown belt in taekwondo, and celebrated his 70th birthday by doing shoulder shrugs with 600 pounds,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs also include Edward Du Bois III, a prominent investigator in South Florida who was assigned to Miami Dolphins games. The 74-year-old had been an NFL security representative for 49 years and was portrayed by actor Ed Harris in the 2013 Michael Bay movie “Pain & Gain,” a true crime story recounting Du Bois’s work investigating the criminal activities of an organized group of bodybuilders.

The lawsuit contends Lanier made little effort to get to know the veteran security representatives. It states that she visited with Richard Welsh, a 71-year-old retired major with the Prince George’s County Police Department who had been assigned to Redskins games for 13 years. “Their interaction was extremely limited. Lanier did not walk the field with Welsh, or ask to be introduced to the team owner, team administrative staff, stadium security personnel or law enforcement,” the complaint states. “First and foremost, Lanier asked Welsh for help finding her parking spot.

“Her only other interaction with Plaintiff Welsh that day was to try to show him that he was wrong when he told her that the Redskins would not give her a copy of their proprietary Emergency Operations Plan on a thumb drive as she had commanded. But he was right, and she was wrong. It appears that Lanier did not understand that the football team organizations do not work for her, or the NFL. Actually, it’s the opposite.”

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