NFL Threatened with Investigation over Treatment of Female Employees by Attorneys

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 14: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during the Super Bowl LVI head coach and MVP press conference at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Attorneys general from six states sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday saying they will launch a wide-scale investigation into the treatment of women in the league's workplaces unless significant changes are enacted.

Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman of the New York Times reported Wednesday the attorneys voiced "grave concerns" about harassment of women and other marginalized groups within NFL organizations.

"All of this is entirely unacceptable and potentially unlawful," the letter read, adding they would use "the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation by employers throughout our states, including the National Football League."

In February, Goodell said racism and discrimination are "against our values" and noted the league would work to "preserve the type of culture we want in the NFL."

"If we see evidence of discrimination, we will deal with that in a very serious way that would reflect the fact that we won't tolerate it, and I think our clubs understand that," Goodell, who has served as commissioner since 2006, told reporters.

His comments came amid several high-profile investigations involving the league.

In January, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a probe into allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct involving the Washington Commanders' front office, including team owner Daniel Snyder.

Documents obtained as part of that investigation revealed the NFL couldn't publicly release findings from a prior independent review of the Commanders organization by attorney Beth Wilkinson without the "explicit permission" of Snyder, per ESPN's Tisha Thompson.

Last week, Liz Clarke, Paul Kane and Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported the committee reviewed more than 80,000 documents related to the Commanders workplace and expanded the investigation to include alleged financial impropriety.

"The investigation is going forward," committee chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney told the Post.

Meanwhile, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a civil lawsuit against the NFL and its teams alleging racial discrimination in its hiring and firing practices.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported two other plaintiffs are scheduled to join Flores' lawsuit Friday with their own allegations of "discriminatory bias."

The NFL is also in the spotlight as it investigates allegations of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who's facing 22 civil lawsuits filed by women he hired for massage sessions.

Two Texas grand juries recently declined to indict Watson on criminal charges based on 10 police complaints alleging sexual assault or misconduct. Goodell said the league is awaiting further information from the civil cases before deciding whether to hand down punishment.

"That determination will be made by a joint disciplinary officer who's established by the NFLPA and the NFL," Goodell said in late March. "So she will make that decision when the facts are all in, and we'll see. There's no timeframe on that."

The six states involved in Tuesday's letter were Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Washington. New York Attorney General Letitia James asked victims or witnesses of discrimination in NFL workplaces to file complaints with her office, according to the New York Times.

Neither Goodell nor the NFL has publicly commented on the letter.