By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Longtime Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt is suing the team, alleging he was fired last year due to age discrimination.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in St. Louis County names the St. Louis Rams Partnership and three other Rams entities and seeks unspecified damages.
"There's strong evidence that Todd was terminated by the Rams despite fabulous performance over the years because of his age," Hewitt's attorney, Mary Anne Sedey, said Thursday.
A Rams spokeswoman declined comment.
Hewitt, now 55, began working for the Los Angeles Rams at age 11, helping his father with the team's equipment. He officially joined the staff in 1978 and succeeded his father as equipment manager in 1986. He was named NFL Equipment Manager of the Year in 1997, three seasons after the Rams relocated to St. Louis.
The lawsuit said Steve Spagnuolo, hired as head coach in 2009, made comments to Hewitt about his age, "including in 2009, when he told him he was too old for his job," the lawsuit said.
"Mr. Spagnuolo also told Mr. Hewitt that his employment was 'NFL' which means 'Not For Long' employment," the lawsuit stated.
Hewitt was 10 months shy of eligibility for extended health benefits for himself and his family and would have become eligible for early retirement when he was fired in January 2011, the lawsuit stated.
Spagnuolo was fired earlier this year after compiling a 10-38 record over three seasons, and became the defensive coach of the New Orleans Saints. A message left with Spagnuolo through the Saints was not returned Thursday.
The lawsuit claims that at least six other Rams employees were fired or forced into retirement during Spagnuolo's time with the team, people ranging from a 54-year-old trainer to a 70-year-old head of security.
Sedey said Hewitt was not able to land another NFL job. She said he commutes between St. Louis and California, where he works as equipment manager for a college football team. She wasn't sure which team.
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