Shortly after Brian Pope lost his job as security coordinator for the Houston Texans in May, he found out that “several players made the comment that ‘they are trying to get rid of all the brothers,'” he said.
It confirmed his suspicions that former general manager Brian Gaine targeted African American employees for dismissal and replaced them with people of other races, Pope said.
Pope issued a lengthy account of his allegations Thursday after the Houston Chronicle reported that Pope had filed a discrimination complaint against the franchise with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Gaine has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
The Texans said on Thursday that Pope’s allegation was not a factor in the decision to “relieve” Gaine of his job on June 7, and declined to comment on the complaint.
“The Houston Texans do not tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind,” spokeswoman Amy Palacic said Thursday.
The Texans made no mention of Pope’s allegations when Gaine was fired on June 7.
“While the timing may be unusual, this decision was made in the best interest of our organization in our quest to build a championship team for the City of Houston,” the franchise said at the time.
Allegations of being sidelined at breakfast and in meetings
Pope said he started as a full-time security intern with the Texans in July 2016.
He assisted the director of security in a variety of responsibilities, from implementing security policies and procedures for club-related events — training camp, practices and travel — to game day operations, according his statement.
After his internship ended in April 2017, he was offered a full-time position as security coordinator and his responsibilities remained the same, he said.
“All went as planned” during the 2017 season, Pope said, until General Manager Rick Smith announced he was taking a leave of absence and Gaine became general manager in January 2018.
Pope said it didn’t take long for him to suspect something was amiss.
From February to April, six African American employees were fired, he said. In May, Pope briefly replaced another African American as interim director of security, until the role was taken over by Brent Naccara, a white man with years of experience as a special agent with the US Department of the Interior and the Secret Service.
Pope said he was excluded from meetings he should have been part of. Naccara “would walk past me like he did not know me” with groups of law enforcement agents and contractors, Pope said.
Meanwhile, Gaine “would not say much to me or several other minorities,” Pope said. But Gaine had “in-depth conversations” with a white male intern, whom Pope started approaching for information “because the info would never get passed down from Mr. Naccara,” Pope said.
Then, in October, Pope said Naccara told him and other African American employees that Gaine did not want them eating breakfast in a cafe after a certain time “because the perception was that we were just ‘hanging out.'”
He thought the mandate extended to everyone. A few days later, Pope said he saw four white men eating breakfast together in the cafe.
“Every African American in the building understood that not too many of us could congregate or be seen interacting with each other even during lunch because it did not look good to the powers that be,” Pope said.
Naccara declined to comment on the allegations.
One morning in December, Pope said Gaine called him and others to his office and said it was “not a good perception” for them to be getting breakfast together past a certain time.
“From that point on I knew we were being singled out/targeted,” Pope said in his statement. “That is where the entire staff ate.”
Around this time, Pope said he approached Naccara about preparing for the draft and Naccara “brushed” him off.
Pope said Gaine also excluded him from meetings about the draft and left him in the dark until the last minute.
More African American employees were let go before Pope was called into Gaine’s office on May 8.
“He started by asking me, what was my goals and what did I really want to do? Great time to ask when you are firing me is what I thought,” Pope said.
Gaines told Pope he needed someone with law enforcement experience to help to lighten his load. He also said upper management wouldn’t allow him.
On May 10, Pope said he learned that he had been replaced by a white man and he was out of a job when all the front office management positions had been filled, right after the draft.
“I believe I was discriminated against and terminated on the basis of my race and color.”