Attorneys general of six states warned the National Football League on Wednesday to take “swift action” in responding to recent allegations a “workplace culture that is overtly hostile to women,” or face investigations and possible legal charges.
The coalition told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter that it had “grave concerns” about reports of how female employees of the league are treated.
“Our offices will use the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation by employers throughout our states, including at the National Football League,” New York Attorney General Letitia James and her counterparts from Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington said in their letter.
The warning stems from reports in The New York Times in February based on claims by more than 30 former employees of the NFL, which is based in New York City.
Among other things, the female former employees told The Times about being made to repeatedly watch a 2014 video of ex-NFL player Ray Rice punching and knocking out his fiancee, “with commentary by coworkers that the victim had brought the violence on herself,” the letter noted.
Women also detailed how they were asked to reveal if they also had been victims of domestic abuse.
“Other women described experiencing unwanted touching from male bosses, attending parties where
prostitutes were hired, being passed over for promotions based on their gender, and being
pushed out for complaining about discrimination,” said the letter to Goodell.
“In 2014, we watched in horror as the video of [former NFL player] Ray Rice brutally attacking his fiance was made public,” the letter said. “In the aftermath of that disturbing incident and too many others, the NFL promised to do better, take gender violence seriously, and improve conditions for women within the league.”
The attorneys general added: “We now know that they did nothing of the sort.”
The NFL, in a statement responding to the letter, said it is committed to keep its workplaces free from harassment and discrimination.
“We have made great strides over the years in support of that commitment, but acknowledge that we, like many organizations, have more work to do,” the league said.
“We look forward to sharing with the attorneys general the policies, practices, protocols, education programs and partnerships we have implemented to act on this commitment and confirm that the league office and our clubs maintain a respectful workplace where all our employees, including women, have an opportunity to thrive,” the league added.