The longtime voice of the San Francisco 49ers has filed suit against the team for age discrimination.
“Defendant San Francisco 49ers engaged in a pattern and practice of eliminating its older workers, while attempting to rebrand the team as a younger, technology driven organization,” the 10-page lawsuit of Bob Sarlatte maintains.
Sarlatte worked for the team for 30 years before the 49ers cut him in 2014. Now 68, he maintains the 49ers fired him because of his age.
“In order to make room for the younger technology workers, [49ers owner Jed] York engaged in a campaign to terminate the older, senior employees within the 49ers organization,” the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California alleges. “For example, York and his senior management staff made disparaging remarks about older workers, made active attempts to eliminate his older management staff, including repeated violations of the Older Worker’s Benefit Protection Act, and actively recruited younger employees to replace what he perceived to be an aging staff.”
When the 49ers replaced Sarlatte with Bob Sargent as its field announcer, fans launched a petition drive to bring him back at Change.org. “He’s godawful,” one season ticket holder told SFGate.com of the younger announcer. But the team thought otherwise.
Sarlatte played football at Cal before embarking on a career in standup comedy that landed him several appearances on David Letterman’s late-night show. The suit, like the litigant, offers occasional punch lines.
“Plaintiff has suffered loss of employment opportunities, loss of dignity, great humiliation, and emotional injuries manifesting in physical illness and emotional distress,” Sarlatte’s suit says of his allegedly unjust termination. It continues, “The acts of the Defendants as alleged herein, were intentional, outrageous, despicable, oppressive, fraudulent, and done with ill will and intent to injure Plaintiff and to cause mental anguish, anxiety, and emotional distress.”
Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott could attest to the organization’s penchant for discriminating against older employees. But they never made a federal case of it.