6 state AGs threaten to investigate NFL over alleged workplace harassment of women
Six state attorneys general have sent a letter to the NFL threatening to investigate the league if it doesn’t address recent claims of workplace harassment toward women and minority employees.
“We write to express our grave concerns about the recent allegations in the New York Times by over thirty former employees of the National Football League, who described a workplace culture that is overtly hostile to women,” the six attorneys general wrote in their letter to league Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday.
“We, the attorneys general of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington State, are deeply committed to enforcing federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws that protect workers and further equality of opportunity for employees throughout our states.”
The letter was composed and signed by Attorneys General Letitia James (D) of New York, Kwame Raoul (D) of Illinois, Maura Healey (D) of Massachusetts, Ellen Rosenblum (D) of Oregon, Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota and Bob Ferguson (D) of Washington state.
The coalition referred to a New York Times report from February in which more than 30 former NFL employees described a corporate culture that made them feel demoralized and pushed aside.
Female employees told the Times they were made to watch the video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator that became public in 2014 and were publicly asked if they had experienced domestic violence.
Women also told the newspaper they had been criticized for having an “aggressive tone,” passed over for promotion and pushed out of the league for speaking up about concerns.
The attorneys general further noted complaints made by female league employees about “attending parties where prostitutes were hired” and “unwanted touching by male bosses.”
“All of this is entirely unacceptable and potentially unlawful. The N.F.L. must do better—pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace. Our offices will use the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation by employers throughout our states, including at the National Football League,” the letter said.
The NFL has faced renewed scrutiny in the past months over allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination within its workplaces.
Brian Flores, now a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos, in February alleging race discrimination in hiring practices.
A congressional committee has also been probing the league over its investigation of allegations of sexual harassment within the Washington Commanders organization.
In a statement to The Hill, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league is looking forward to sharing with the attorneys general its commitment to ensuring that its offices and clubs have a respectful workplace for all employees.
“We share the commitment of the attorneys general to ensuring that all of our workplaces – including the league office and 32 clubs – are diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment. We have made great strides over the years in support of that commitment, but acknowledge that we, like many organizations, have more work to do,” McCarthy said.
“We look forward to sharing with the attorneys general the policies, practices, protocols, education programs and partnerships we have implemented to act on this commitment and confirm that the league office and our clubs maintain a respectful workplace where all our employees, including women, have an opportunity to thrive.”
— Updated at 2:11 p.m.
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