The National Football League has another legal problem. And this one could end up being particularly problematic.
Via the Washington Post, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James jointly announced that they will investigate claims that the NFL “fostered a hostile workplace environment and engaged in employment discrimination.”
Both attorneys general also issued a subpoena to the NFL seeking information relative to the probe.
The NFL’s main office is headquartered in New York. NFL Network has its primary place of business in L.A. More than 1,000 employees work for the NFL in the two states.
This investigation relates to the league itself, not any teams. Hiring, firing, and day-to-day treatment of staff all become potential fair game for the probe.
Last year, a letter from six attorneys general to the league expressed “grave concerns” about allegations made by former employees of the NFL.
“We all watched in horror in 2014 when the video of Ray Rice striking, knocking out, and spitting on his fiancé was made public,” the letter from April 2022 explained. “In the aftermath, you promised to take gender violence seriously and improve the institutional culture for women at the [NFL]. 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.”
The letter also said that female employees believe 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.”
It remains to be seen whether the investigation results in formal action. It’s a step-by-step process. But this is a fairly important step. It’s now a thing that the NFL has to deal with. And it won’t go away simply because the league wants it to.