May 26, 2024

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New York, California probing workplace discrimination at NFL

3 min read

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell meets with fans during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

NEW YORK (AP) — The attorneys general of New York and California announced Thursday that they are investigating allegations of workplace discrimination at the NFL, citing lawsuits filed by employees that describe sex, racial and age bias, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment.

Attorneys General Letitia James, of New York, and Rob Bonta, of California, said they have issued subpoenas to NFL executives as part of an examination into the workplace culture at the the league’s corporate offices in both states.

The officials, both Democrats, said they are exercising their legal authority to seek information from the NFL regarding allegations of gender pay disparities, harassment, and gender and racial discrimination.

The investigation focuses on the league’s corporate offices, not specific teams or players.

“No person should ever have to endure harassment, discrimination, or objectification in the workplace,” James said in a statement. Bonta said he and James have “serious concerns about the NFL’s role in creating an extremely hostile and detrimental work environment.”

The league said it would cooperate with the investigation but called the allegations “entirely inconsistent with the NFL’s values and practices.”

“The NFL offices are places where employees of all genders, races and backgrounds thrive. We do not tolerate discrimination in any form,” league officials said in a statement.

James and Bonta cited a 2022 New York Times story that detailed allegations of gender discrimination by more than 30 former female NFL employees.

The women described a sexist culture at the NFL that they said persisted despite promises of reform that Commissioner Roger Goodell made after the 2014 release of a video that showed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee.

One former NFL executive, Theresa Locklear, who held the position of director of business intelligence and optimization, told the Times that after the Rice video became public, managers were told to speak to their staffs about the video and the league’s response to it.

Locklear said that when she met with her team, a male employee, Aaron Jones, argued that Rice’s fiancée was partly at fault because she had egged Rice on, and other men on the call seemed to agree.

Jones told the Times that he had never spoken to Locklear about Rice and would never have argued that a woman was to blame for her assault.

The attorneys general also cited a lawsuit filed this year in Los Angeles Superior Court by Jennifer Love, a former director for NFL Enterprises, who attributed her 2022 layoff to retaliation for her complaints of “pervasive sexism” and a “boys’ club” mentality.

NFL spokesperson Alex Riethmiller said the league had no comment on the Love’s lawsuit.

The wide-ranging investigation by New York and California officials into employment practices at the NFL appears to be unprecedented, although complaints of race and sex discrimination have dogged the league and individual teams.

The Washington Commanders, owner Dan Snyder, the NFL and Goodell were sued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia in November for colluding to deceive fans by lying about an inquiry into “sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment” within the team. D.C. and Maryland also investigated and settled with the team over withholding fans’ season-ticket deposit money.

Fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL and three teams last year over alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and general managers, saying the league remains “rife with racism.”

The NFL has said Flores’ claims are without merit.

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