Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp has broken his silence regarding sexual harassment allegations made in the wake of words and behavior from Sapp and others who are or were employed by NFL Network. He probably should have remained silent.
Sapp appeared Wednesday in studio on WINZ radio to address allegations of sexual harassment. And Sapp clearly doesn’t understand what the term means.
“I’m still tying to figure out where’s the sexual harassment?” Sapp said, via A.J. Perez of USA Today. (The full audio is posted here.)
Sapp admitted to giving sex toys (although he claims they aren’t sex toys) as Christmas gifts to female colleagues, but he claims that the devices were obtained only after they were mentioned by a couple of makeup artists. Sapp reportedly didn’t say whether the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jami Cantor, had mentioned or requested the device.
“We were sitting there around Christmas time and everybody brought a Christmas gift, a little holiday joy for everybody,” Sapp said. “So my man had made a little novelty thing that looked like mascara, eyeliner and different things. Little toys for ladies that move around a little bit. I showed them pictures and [the makeup artists] said bring me some, so I brought them some for the makeup ladies.”
Sapp sees no problem with giving sex toys to colleagues, insisting that there was nothing sexual about sex toys that he doesn’t regard as sex toys. (He later doubled down on his Twitter page, calling the devices “cute.”)
“Where is the harassment at?” Sapp said on WINZ. “I’m the notorious one. I’m always the bad guy. That’s why I’m in here today. Ain’t no #metoo, nothing. No sexual harassment. You are not going to put that on me.”
He clearly doesn’t understand what sexual harassment is. Sexual harassment doesn’t arise only from seeking out sexual favors from a subordinate employee. Sexual harassment also can arise from words or actions of a sexual nature that are deemed to be offensive by co-workers who are subjected to them.
The core question for the purposes of Cantor’s lawsuit will be whether she actually viewed the conduct as offensive. To make that argument, however, the NFL will have to admit that some or all of the alleged conduct occurred, and hope that a jury can be persuaded that Cantor had no problem with it.
While possibly a winning strategy in court, it’s a horrible look for the NFL, since it creates the impression of unprofessional, inappropriate workplace conduct that apparently went unchecked for an extended period of time. Given Sapp’s admission regarding giving non-sex-toy-sex-toys to female colleagues, the NFL’s best (only) approach may be to admit that a frat house mentality existed, and that Cantor didn’t have a problem with it until she was fired.
Meanwhile, as to the question of whether Sapp urinated in front of Cantor, whose office apparently was in the same location as Arthur Fonzarelli’s, Sapp strongly denied that he peed in her presence. Although he otherwise confirmed much of the claim.
“I didn’t pee in front of my wife and I was married to her for nine years,” Sapp said. “It’s just not something you [do]. What is that about? It’s not cute. It’s not sexual. It’s not something you want to see. Last time I checked, if you ate some asparagus, it might stink.”
Good one, Warren. Almost as good as the comment about CTE, made when you said there was nothing “memorable” about your recent conversation with Marshall Faulk, who was suspended by NFL Network earlier this week pending investigation of the allegations Cantor has made against him.
Ultimately, Sapp should have chosen to say nothing. He’s not a defendant in the lawsuit, and he likely won’t be. The claims made against him hardly besmirch his reputation, given his arrest for solicitation of a prostitute.
Moving forward, Sapp should say nothing. Until his deposition, that is. Which if it were televised by NFL Network would instantly become the second most compelling show on the channel. Maybe the first.