Updated May 5, 2023 - Sports

New York and California investigate NFL discrimination complaints

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a February press conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Peter Casey/Getty Images

New York and California officials are jointly investigating the NFL over allegations of workplace discrimination and a "hostile work environment" at football league offices, the states' attorneys general announced Thursday.

Driving the news: New York Attorney General Letitia James and California A.G. Rob Bonta are investigating potential violations of federal and state pay equity laws and anti-discrimination laws, as the NFL faces several pending lawsuits filed by women who used to work for the league.

A screenshot of a tweet by New York Attorney General Letitia James stating: "My office and  @AGRobBonta  are launching an investigation into the  @NFL  over allegations of employment discrimination and a hostile work environment.  No matter how powerful or influential, no organization is above the law."
Photo: New York Attorney General Letitia James/Twitter
  • The attorneys general cited in their announcement lawsuits including a race discrimination complaint filed by a Black female employee and a sexual harassment suit from a woman who worked as an NFL Network wardrobe stylist.
  • They also noted a 2022 New York Times report that more than 30 former female employees had alleged gender discrimination and retaliation after they filed complaints with the NFL's human resources division.

What they're saying: "No person should ever have to endure harassment, discrimination, or objectification in the workplace," James said in a statement. "No matter how powerful or influential, no institution is above the law, and we will ensure the NFL is held accountable."

  • Bonta added: "We have serious concerns about the NFL’s role in creating an extremely hostile and detrimental work environment."
A screenshot of a tweet by California's attorney general stating: ". @NewYorkStateAG  and I are investigating allegations of employment discrimination and a hostile work environment at the  @NFL .  California will not tolerate any form of discrimination.  No company is too big to avoid being held responsible for its actions."
Photo: California Attorney General Rob Bonta/Twitter

The other side: The league in a statement to news outlets called the allegations "entirely inconsistent with the NFL's values and practice" and it does "not tolerate discrimination in any form."

  • "The NFL is committed to ensuring all employees of the league are respected, treated fairly, and have equitable pay and access to developmental opportunities," the statement continued.
  • "Our policies are intended not only to comply with all applicable laws but to foster a workplace free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination," it added. "We take these matters seriously and will fully cooperate with the attorneys general."

Of note: The attorneys general noted there was a congressional inquiry last year into allegations of workplace misconduct against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and pointed to several other instances where similar workplace allegations arose.

Zoom out: The District of Columbia in November filed a lawsuit against Snyder, the NFL and league commissioner Roger Goodell over allegations of deceiving D.C. residents about the league's investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct.

  • Fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores alleged racial discrimination in a lawsuit filed against the NFL and each of its franchises last year.
  • James and five other attorneys general wrote to Goodell in April last year asking for a response to the allegations of the workplace harassment of women as reported in the New York Times article and lawsuits.
  • "Despite reports and allegations of abuse perpetrated by both players and male staff, reports that the NFL has not taken sufficient effective steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation from occurring in the workplace persist," James and Bonta said in their joint statement.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional comment from the New York and California attorneys general and more context.

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