A group of six Democratic attorneys general, led by New York AG Letitia James, sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Wednesday saying they are prepared to use the "full weight of our authority" to investigate the league after reports surfaced that female employees were mistreated, in what could be the latest legal trouble for the NFL.
The AGs said they have "deep concerns" about allegations that surfaced in a February New York Times report documenting experiences from more than 30 former female staffers.
The women described workplaces rife with harassment and misogyny, with some claiming they were passed over for promotions based on their gender, received unwanted touches from male bosses and were asked to self-identify if they'd been victims of domestic violence.
Women were also allegedly held back for using an "aggressive tone," according to the report, which the AGs called an "unfair stereotype of women, especially women of color" and ironic since aggression is celebrated on NFL fields.
Wednesday’s letter appears to serve as a harsh warning to the NFL from the AGs, but does not launch an official investigation.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Forbes the league intends to voluntarily share information with prosecutors, saying the NFL has made “great strides” in combating harassment and looks “forward to sharing with the attorneys general the policies, practices, protocols, education programs and partnerships we have implemented to act on this commitment.”
Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum, Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Washington AG Bob Ferguson joined James in signing the letter.
"The N.F.L. must do better—pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace," the AGs said.
The NFL has come under increasing criticism in recent years for alleged mistreatment of women in the workplace and its responses when accusations arise, with the most notable example coming from the Washington Commanders organization. A 2020 Washington Post exposé detailed accounts from more than a dozen former female employees, who recalled a workplace rampant with sexual harassment from top executives on down. The women said an understaffed human resources department meant harassment complaints often went ignored, and they felt threatened that speaking up might have meant getting fired. The NFL fined the team $10 million after concluding an investigation in 2021, with team owner Daniel Snyder agreeing to step away from day-to-day responsibilities of managing the franchise. The accusations prompted an investigation from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has asked the league to turn over tens of thousands of documents it collected in its investigation of the Commanders but did not make public. Snyder was not personally accused of sexual harassment in the 2020 Post report, but multiple women have since come forward with allegations against him. The NFL announced in February it would investigate the new claims against Snyder, while there are growing calls for the league to strip Snyder of the team's ownership.
The league's also faced allegations of racism in its hiring processes. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who is Black, filed a lawsuit against the NFL on February 1, claiming he was subject to sham interviews for head coaching jobs earlier this year just so teams could satisfy a rule requiring them to interview minority candidates. Flores’ claims have prompted calls for a congressional investigation into racism allegations.
Promised a New Culture, Women Say the N.F.L. Instead Pushed Them Aside (New York Times)
From dream job to nightmare (Washington Post)
Calls Grow For Congressional Action Over Alleged Racism In NFL After Brian Flores Lawsuit (Forbes)