Attorneys General Will Look Into the National Football League’s Treatment of Women Players. The New York Times published an article in February 2022 about the treatment of women who work for the NFL, prompting the attorneys general of New York and California to launch an investigation into charges of workplace discrimination and wage inequalities at the N.F.L. headquarters in both states.
A year after The Times interviewed more than 30 current and former N.F.L. employees, many of whom described a stifling and demoralizing corporate culture that drove some women to quit in frustration and left many feelings brushed aside, Letitia James of New York and Rob Bonta of California made their announcement.
No organization, no matter how powerful or prominent, is immune to the rule of law, and James promised that the NFL would face the consequences.
Additionally, Bonta stated, “We have serious concerns about the N.F.L.’s role in creating an extremely hostile and detrimental work environment.”
The state attorneys general issued subpoenas to the National Football League for documents related to the league’s handling of the charges, claiming the NFL had not done enough to combat workplace discrimination and retaliation. The length of the study is unrestricted.
“These allegations are entirely inconsistent with the N.F.L.’s values and practices,” the league said in a statement released Thursday, adding that it does not “tolerate discrimination in any form.”
According to the company’s official statement, “our policies are intended to foster a workplace free from harassment, intimidation, and discrimination” (as well as to comply with all applicable laws).
In April 2022, in response to the women’s complaints, the attorneys general of six states urged the NFL to fix these and other workplace problems or face an inquiry. James was leading the attorneys general in a request for victims and witnesses of prejudice in the NFL to contact their offices.
The league claimed it had outlined its principles and practices in a letter sent to Attorney General James and other attorneys general on May 18, 2022, but had yet to hear back from them before Thursday’s announcement.
The National Football League employs around 1,100 workers in New York, New Jersey, and California. A league representative claims that 37% are female and 30% are people of color. The league has increased its efforts to diversify its workforce by instituting measures like mandatory antiracism training and a confidential hotline for employees to report incidents of racism.
However, female employees have reported ongoing issues. In April, a former high-ranking executive of the league filed a lawsuit alleging age and gender discrimination against the league’s two business divisions, N.F.L. Enterprises and N.F.L. Properties, as well as other executives.
Jennifer Love, the first female vice president of the NFL Media Group after working there for 19 years and helping develop the NFL Network, filed the lawsuit. Love said the league’s HR division ignored her concerns that “pervasive sexism in the workplace” and the “N.F.L. had a ‘boys club’ mentality.” She complained to HR that some high-ranking males were antagonistic toward her and that individuals with less experience were often promoted over her. One of those officials, Mark Quenzel, allegedly broke the news to Love in March 2022 that her position was being removed, as stated in her case filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Times stated that NFL Network senior vice president and head of content Quenzel was facing penalties from the league, including being required to complete an anger management course, after he was accused of assaulting a female colleague during a rehearsal for the 2020 Super Bowl. Last year, a league official disputed the claim and stated that Quenzel did not push her on behalf of the league and Quenzel.
Last year, a discrimination case filed by Brian Flores, the former Afro-Latino coach of the Miami Dolphins, brought increased attention to the N.F.L.’s working atmosphere. He stated that teams were not required to interview various candidates for head coaching and general manager positions, violating the league’s rules.
After the 2021 season, the Dolphins let Flores go, and he took a job as an assistant defensive coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers because he had no head coaching offers. The Minnesota Vikings have promoted him to coordinate their defense.
In March, a federal judge in New York ordered that Flores may go public with his discrimination claims against the league rather than submit them to private arbitration as the league had requested.
Last year, the NFL stated that it was “deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices” and that “we will defend against these claims, which are without merit.” Several teams have also strongly refuted Flores’s allegations.
A congressional panel also looked at the National Football League’s response to allegations of pervasive sexual harassment in the front office of the Washington Commandos. In February 2022, the committee heard testimony from former team employees after requesting tens of thousands of documents from the league. The Commander’s owner, Daniel Snyder, has been accused of sexual harassment by two women.
Snyder has refuted the claims, and the NFL has launched a new probe into the allegations.
The N.F.L.’s initial yearlong investigation into the harassment claims against the Commander’s organization was completed in July 2021 with a $10 million fine for the team. Still, the league declined to publicize the full findings, prompting the congressional investigation. Snyder also consented to his wife, Tanya, running the team for a year.
In a 79-page report released in December, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform found that Snyder, with the help of N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, had covered up decades of sexual harassment of women by Snyder and team executives.
Snyder and the prospective buyer agreed on a $6 billion price for the franchise last month.