Earlier this month, the state attorneys general in New York and California announced that they have launched a joint investigation into the NFL over allegations that female employees of the league have been subject to workplace sex, racial, and age bias, as well as sexual harassment.
The probe into the league’s workplace culture is being led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who recently issued subpoenas on the NFL’s corporate offices in New York and California. The investigation is not targeting any of the league’s 32 teams in particular, but is instead focused on uncovering details related to the actions of the league itself.
According to the two attorneys general, the investigation is in response to “serious concerns about the NFL’s role in creating an extremely hostile and detrimental work environment.” Several reasons for the investigation include the various lawsuits that have been filed by former NFL employees alleging discrimination and a hostile work environment, and the congressional hearings conducted last year on the league’s handling of the allegations of hostile workplace practices at the Washington Commanders organization. Bonta and James further stated that “No person should ever have to endure harassment, discrimination, or abuse in the workplace,” and that “No matter how powerful or influential, no institution is above the law, and we will ensure [that] the NFL is held accountable.”
In their initial statement, the two attorneys general stated that they are specifically seeking information from the NFL regarding allegations of gender pay disparities in compensation, harassment, and gender and race discrimination. Bonta further added that they are very concerned about the NFL’s role in creating and fostering an “extremely toxic and detrimental work environment.”
In response to the announced investigation, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy stated that the NFL does not tolerate discrimination in any form and would fully cooperate with the investigation. However, McCarthy also made clear that the allegations of bias and harassment are inconsistent with the league’s values and practices. In the league’s official public statement, McCarthy made clear that the “NFL is committed to ensuring all employees of the league are respected, treated fairly, and have equitable pay and access to developmental opportunities.”
In justifying their investigation, both attorneys general also pointed to an article published by the New York Times in February 2022 that detailed claims of gender discrimination by more than 30 former female employees of the NFL as cause for their probe. In the article, the former employees who spoke with the newspaper said that their complaints of gender discrimination were overlooked by the league’s HR department and that they were left feeling “demoralized.”
While historically, large entities like the NFL are rarely held fully accountable for their actions, with lawsuits, investigations, and congressional hearings continuing to pile-up against the NFL, it appears more and more likely that the racial and sexual discrimination that has seemingly become endemic in the NFL will finally be addressed for the better.
 Photograph: https://www.npr.org/2023/05/04/1174015808/nfl-investigation-claims-gender-discrimination-harassment
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