NFL Warned by Attorney Generals, Continued Allegations of Sexism and Racism

Jack Schoen, Staff Writer

After years of allegations of workplace misconduct, and confusing standards for punishments regarding domestic abuse and sexual assault, the National Football League (NFL) might finally be facing serious ramifications for unhealthy workplace culture. Confrontation of these issues comes at the same time as the league faces other events, including a lawsuit surrounding the prejudice in coach Brian Flores’s hiring and the multi-team bidding war for DeShaun Watson.

Current NFL administration, which has thus far avoided legal repercussions for their conduct, has officially been warned by six states’ Attorney Generals to address culture of workplace harassment more diligently, or face investigations and action in court. Although none of these problems are new, there seems to be much less tolerance in the media as well as law enforcement systems that have permitted this kind of behavior in the past.

There have been two separate scandals that each further allegations of sexism against Roger Goodell and league management. The first originates with a Washington Post article from 2020, which detailed several separate incidents of workplace misconduct in the then Washington Football Team organization. While the article critiqued Snyder’s response to sexism in his organization, the allegations mostly stayed away from him. But since July of 2021, when The Washington Post published another article on the team’s administrative culture, several credible allegations have been made against Snyder himself. 

The league office has also been criticized for their response to Snyder’s behavior, and for allowing him to continue owning his football team. Furthermore, the New York Times published an article on sexism within the league itself, where 30+ women shared stories of experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, retribution for speaking up against bad behavior, and even physical violence. These allegations have led to increased legal attention, and a potential for serious changes to be made inside the league for office. 

In the past, there are examples where the NFL administration has expressed remorse for their actions and changed their policy. After settling the Colin Kaepernick lawsuit out of court and condemning any players who kneel during the National Anthem, several prominent players posted a video challenging the league to do better after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Roger Goodell, posting on the league’s official twitter account, responded saying, “’We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.’” 

The following season the league included anti-racist messages at the end zone of games and allowed players to include one of six social justice messages on their helmets. The league also pledged to donate 250 million dollars to the fight against systemic racism over the next ten years, and use the NFL network and other media properties to encourage education on social justice issues.

For some, the league’s response to systematic racism was viewed as an encouraging step in the right direction, while for others it was characterized as a long overdue apology to an issue the league helped perpetuate. Now, given the plethora of problems plaguing the league, it looks like they will have to take action. 

Ultimately, Roger Goodell represents the owners, and has enough support from those owners to keep his position secure for the foreseeable future. He will decide how the league office will address these allegations, but for the first time perhaps in its history, the NFL may face genuine consequences for their inaction; the Attorney General from New York was clear about that. The league is going to have to make difficult decisions on how to adjudicate issues of sexism and racism within its administration, or they will face consequences beyond a bad headline or two.