New York Jets Safety, Rontez Miles, is suing the National Football League (NFL) after an injury that occurred in the second game of the 2017 preseason.
A lineman’s hand went through the face mask of Miles and broke his orbital bone in his right eye in two places. Miles’ lawsuit claims that the referee violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when he demanded that Miles remove the visor that was on his face mask.
Miles wears the visor because he suffers from Alopecia Areata. This autoimmune disease is known for causing photosensitivity and photophobia (both involving sensitivity and potential reaction to sunlight). Miles has worn this face mask his entire career – including college – up until this 2017 preseason game. Miles argues that if he never had to remove his visor, the injury would not have occurred.
Miles wears the tinted visor on his face mask to protect his eyes and allow him to see properly – a necessity to his job on the field. Miles argues that Alopecia Areata is a disability entitling him to protection under the ADA and that he needs to wear his visor to perform the essential functions of his job as a football player.
The NFL has banned tinted visors (like the one Miles was wearing) since 1988, except for players with certain medical conditions. The New York Jets, however, gave Miles permission to wear the visor.
When the referee allegedly told Miles that he either: (i) had to remove the visor, or (ii) be removed from the game, Miles himself and the Jets’ medical staff both informed the referee of the medical condition. However, the referee still forced him to remove his visor.
Miles was fighting for a position on the team, and he felt that he had to stay in the game to even be considered for the 53-man roster. Little did he know that staying in the game would lead to the injury that required surgery, causing him to miss several games and suffer from severe pain.
Five referees involved in the 2017 preseason game are all listed as “Jon Doe” 1-5 in the complaint. The complaint was initially filed in Morris County Superior Court in New Jersey, but it was moved to the District Court of New Jersey in September 2019.