NFL's alleged gender discrimination at workplace: What's next for the league?
- More than 30 former employees described the problems they faced while at NFL
- Their allegations were made public in a New York Times report in February
- The attorney generals warned that a lack of improvement could lead to legal action
The attorneys general of six states on Wednesday called on the NFL to address allegations of gender-based discrimination in the workplace. The attorney generals warned that a lack of improvement to the league's workplace culture could lead to legal action.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked to address the "grave concerns" of the allegations made public in a February New York Times report.
In the report, more than 30 former employees described the problems they faced, including unwanted touching from male bosses; attending parties where prostitutes were hired; being passed over for promotions based on their gender.
"We, the attorneys general of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington State, are deeply committed to enforcing federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws that protect workers and further equality of opportunity for employees throughout our states. With 1100 employees at the N.F.L., 37% of whom are women and 30% of whom are people of color, it is imperative that you ensure that all employees are treated equally, fairly and with the dignity they deserve. In New York, where the NFL is headquartered, the Office of the Attorney General has never hesitated to take action to protect employees from sexual harassment and abuse, whether they are entry-level employees of the Weinstein Company or servers and bartenders at Batali-owned restaurants," the letter to Goodell read.
"We all watched in horror in 2014 when the video of Ray Rice striking, knocking out, and spitting on his fiancé was made public. In the aftermath, you promised to take gender violence seriously and improve the institutional culture for women at the N.F.L. These recent allegations suggest that you have not. Female employees reported that they were subjected to repeated viewings of the Rice video, with commentary by coworkers that the victim had brought the violence on herself. Other women reported that, in a training intended to improve sensitivity on the issue, they were asked to raise their hand to self-identify if they had been victims of domestic violence or knew someone who had. This is NOT doing better. Antidiscrimination laws in many states, including New York, prohibit employers from subjecting domestic violence victims, as well as women and people of color, to a hostile work environment.
"In addition, female employees told the Times that they were held back and criticized for having an "aggressive tone"—an often unfair stereotype of women, especially women of color, who try to advance in a male dominated workplace. This comment is particularly ironic coming from a manager at the N.F.L., where aggression is prized and celebrated on the field. Other women described experiencing unwanted touching from male bosses, attending parties where prostitutes were hired, being passed over for promotions based on their gender, and being pushed out for complaining about discrimination. In fact, some former female employees have since learned that there were no records of their complaints of gender discrimination."
"The NFL must do better -- pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace," the attorneys generals wrote. "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 was signed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguso
In an email response, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said:
"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. 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."
Some of the NFL’s partnerships are with RISE, GLAAD, Paradigm and the Winters Group.
Amid words of making changes to its work culture, the NFL last month changed what is known as the "Rooney Rule," which was designed to ensure more opportunities for women and racial minorities.
All 32 clubs were asked to employ a woman or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach starting this season. The person who is hired in the position will will receive a one-year contract and work closely with the head coach and offensive staff to gain experience.