Attorney General James and Bonta to investigate NFL treatment of women

The New York and California attorneys general have launched a joint investigation into allegations of workplace discrimination and pay inequality at NFL offices in the two states in response to a New York Times report in February 2022 on the treatment of women who work for the league. .

The announcement from New York’s Letitia James and California’s Rob Bonta comes a year after The Times interviewed more than 30 current and former NFL employees who described a stifling and demoralizing corporate culture that pushed some women to resign out of frustration and which left many feeling swept away. next to.

“No matter how powerful or influential, no institution is above the law, and we will ensure the NFL is held accountable,” James said in a statement.

Bonta added, “We are seriously concerned about the NFL’s role in creating an extremely hostile and damaging work environment.”

Attorneys general, who issued subpoenas to the NFL seeking relevant information regarding their handling of the claims, said the league had failed to take sufficient steps to prevent workplace discrimination and retaliation. . The duration of the investigation is not limited in time.

The league said Thursday it intends to “cooperate fully with the attorneys general,” adding in a statement that “these allegations are completely inconsistent with the values ​​and practices of the NFL” and that it does not “tolerate any form of discrimination”.

“Our policies are intended not only to comply with all applicable laws, but to foster a workplace free from harassment, bullying and discrimination,” the statement read.

The women’s allegations had prompted attorneys general in six states in April 2022 to encourage the NFL to address these and other workplace issues or face a formal investigation. The attorneys general, led by James, have also asked victims and witnesses of discrimination in the NFL to file complaints with their offices.

The league said it wrote to Attorney General James and other attorneys general on May 18, 2022 to outline its policies and practices, but did not receive a response until Thursday’s announcement.

About 1,100 people work for the NFL at its offices in New York, New Jersey and California. According to a league spokesperson, 37% are women and 30% are people of color. The league has done more to diversify its hires and has implemented mandatory anti-racism training and an anonymous hotline – called Protect the Shield – for employee concerns.

But the women who work there said the problems persisted. One, a senior executive who left the league, filed an age and gender discrimination lawsuit in April against NFL Enterprises and NFL Properties — two business divisions of the league — along with several executives.

That case was brought by Jennifer Love, who helped found the NFL Network and grew 19 years to become the first female vice president of the NFL Media Group. Love claimed that the league’s human resources department never responded to his complaints about “pervasive sexism in the workplace and that the NFL has a ‘boys club’ mentality.” She told human resources that several high-level male managers were openly hostile to her and that less experienced men had been repeatedly promoted above her.

According to his lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, one of those executives, Mark Quenzel, told Love in March 2022 that his job was being cut.

The Times reported that Quenzel, senior vice president and chief content officer for NFL Network, was accused of pushing a co-worker during a pre-Super Bowl rehearsal in 2020 and was subject to disciplinary action by the part of the league, which included the requirement to take an anger management course. A league spokesperson, speaking on behalf of Quenzel and the league last year, denied that claim and insisted Quenzel did not push it.

Last year, the NFL’s workplace culture came under intense scrutiny due to a discrimination lawsuit brought by Brian Flores, the former Afro-Latino coach of the Miami Dolphins. He claimed the league flouted its rules requiring teams to interview a wide range of candidates for head coach and general manager positions.

Flores was fired by the Dolphins at the end of the 2021 season and, with no offer for a head coach, was hired as an assistant defensive coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is now the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.

A federal judge in New York ruled in March that Flores’ discrimination claims against the league were not subject to private arbitration, as the league had requested, clearing the way for a public airing of his grievances.

Several teams have vehemently denied Flores’ claims, and the NFL said last year that it was “deeply committed to ensuring fair employment practices” and that “we will defend ourselves against these claims, which are baseless. “.

A congressional committee also investigated the NFL’s handling of allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the Washington Commanders’ front office. This committee requested tens of thousands of documents from the league and held a hearing in February 2022 where former employees spoke about their experiences working for the team. Two women have made new harassment allegations directly involving Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Snyder denied the allegations, and the NFL opened a second investigation into the most recent allegations.

The congressional inquiry sought information on the NFL’s initial year-long investigation into reports of harassment made against the COs organization, which concluded the league in July 2021 fined $10 million. dollars to the team but declined to make its full findings public. Snyder also agreed to hand over day-to-day operations of the team to his wife, Tanya, for a year.

Last December, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a 79-page report that concluded that Snyder, aided by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, had suppressed evidence that Snyder and executives of the team had sexually harassed women who worked on the team for two decades.

Last month, Snyder reached an agreement in principle to sell the team for $6 billion.

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