NEW YORK – Attorneys general from six states have written to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing concern about the league’s treatment of female employees and chastising him for the lack of improvement in the workplace culture of the league.
Without improvement, attorneys general have warned of possible legal action.
The letter outlines gender discrimination concerns ranging from the NFL’s treatment of women who have experienced domestic violence to the hiring and promotion of women in NFL offices. It comes as Congress investigates the league’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment at the front office of Washington commanders.
The letter was signed by Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, where the league is headquartered, as well as the attorneys general of Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and the state of Washington.
That letter also cited a New York Times article that included allegations from more than 30 former NFL employees who said they encountered problems including unwanted touching from male bosses; attending parties where prostitutes were hired; being passed over for promotions based on their gender; and be expelled for filing a discrimination complaint.
“The NFL must do better – pink jerseys are no substitute for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace,” the attorneys general wrote. “Our offices will use the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination or retaliation by employers in all of our states, including the National Football League.”
In an email response, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said:
“We share the Attorneys General’s commitment to ensuring that all of our workplaces – including the league office and 32 clubs – are diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment. We have made great strides. progress over the years to support this commitment, but recognize that we, like many organizations, still have work to do. We look forward to sharing with Attorneys General policies, practices, protocols, education programs and partnerships that we have put in place to follow through on this commitment and confirm that the office league and our clubs maintain a respectful workplace where all of our employees, including women, have the opportunity to thrive.”
McCarthy highlighted these ongoing league programs as a comprehensive employee training initiative through partnerships with organizations including RISE, GLAAD, Paradigm and The Winters Group; and internal affinity groups, where employees can interact, learn and support each other in small communities such as BEN (Black Engagement Network), PIN (Parents Initiative Network) and WIN (Women’s Interactive Network).
Last month, the NFL changed what’s known as the “Rooney Rule,” designed to provide more opportunities for women and racial minorities. From this season, all 32 clubs must employ a woman or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an attacking assistant coach. The person will receive a one-year contract and work closely with the head coach and offensive staff to gain experience.