Raiders’ McKenzie testifies age wasn’t a factor in firings

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie testified Thursday that he fired two veteran scouts three years ago because he didn’t think they were good enough to head the football team’s scouting operation, not because of their age.

Taking the witness stand in an age discrimination lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by Bruce Kebric and Jon Kingdon, who had both been with the Raiders for more than 30 years, McKenzie said, “I don’t feel they did their job” as leaders of the scouting group.

He said, “They did a regular job, but I didn’t think they were good enough” to oversee all the other scouts. McKenzie, who was hired as general manager by Raiders owner Mark Davis on Jan. 6, 2012, fired Kebric and Kingdon on May 1, 2012, shortly after the National Football League draft that year.

As scouts, Kebric and Kingdom helped the Raiders evaluate college players and choose which ones to draft. Kingdon was 59 at the time and Kebric was 68. Kebric is a member of the scouting hall of fame.

In their suit, which was filed on June 6, 2013, the two former scouts accuse the Raiders of age discrimination, discharge in violation of public policy, breach of contract, bad faith and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking unspecified general and punitive damages.

After the suit was filed, the Raiders said in a statement that:

“These claims of age discrimination are meritless. … The Oakland Raiders have a long history of being an equal opportunity employer, without regard to race, gender, religion or age.”

McKenzie has said that he wanted to hire his own leadership team after he became general manager, but Barbara Lawless, the attorney for Kingdon and Kebric, said outside court today that she thinks McKenzie and Davis wanted to bring in young people and get rid of older people.

Davis took over as the Raiders’ owner in October 2011 after the death of his father Al Davis, the team’s longtime leader. He will testify when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

To try to prove her contention that Davis and McKenzie favored younger people, Lawless called Contra Costa Times sportswriter Steve Corkoran, who has covered the Raiders for many years, to the witness stand.

Corkoran said that when Dennis Allen was hired as the Raiders’ head coach on Jan. 24, 2012, Davis told reporters several times that one of the reasons he hired Allen, who was 39 at the time, was that he was young.

Allen was the youngest head coach in the National Football League at the time. McKenzie testified today that he wasn’t aware of that fact when he hired Allen but he learned that later. The Raiders fired Allen on Sept. 29 after he compiled a record of only 8 wins and 28 losses.

Corkoran said scouts at other teams told him they were surprised when the Raiders fired Kebric and Kingdon. Corkoran testified:

“They said they couldn’t believe the Raiders got rid of Bruce (Kebric) and Jon (Kingdon) and said they were two of the best in the league.”

McKenzie said Kebric “was a solid scout” but “wasn’t right on (evaluating) a whole lot of players” and wasn’t what he was looking for as a head scout. But he said he fired Kingdon because “he was not very organized at all and lacked a lot of things.”

McKenzie said Kingdon:

“… was not a good evaluator and was not a good communicator and I thought he needed to be replaced.”