After years of allegations of workplace misconduct and confusing standards for penalties for domestic violence and sexual assault, the National Football League (NFL) may finally face serious ramifications for an unhealthy work culture. The confrontation over these issues comes at the same time as the league is dealing with other events, including a lawsuit over hiring bias in coach Brian Flores and the multi-team bidding war for DeShaun Watson.
The current NFL administration, which has so far avoided legal repercussions for its conduct, has been formally warned by attorneys general in six states to more diligently address the culture of harassment in the workplace, or to face investigations and legal proceedings. While none of these issues are new, there seems to be much less tolerance in the media as well as law enforcement systems that have allowed this type of behavior in the past.
There have been two separate scandals that each add sexism allegations against Roger Goodell and league management. The first is from a Washington Post article as of 2020, which detailed several separate incidents of workplace misconduct in the then-Washington Football Team organization. While the article criticized Snyder’s response to sexism in his organization, the allegations were mostly kept away from him. But since July 2021, when the Washington Post published another article on the administrative culture of the team, several credible allegations were made against Snyder himself.
The league office has also been criticized for its response to Snyder’s behavior and for allowing him to continue owning his football team. Moreover, the New York Times published an article about sexism within the league itself, where more than 30 women shared stories of sexual harassment on the job, retaliation for speaking out against bad behavior and even physical violence. These allegations led to increased legal attention and the possibility of serious changes being made within the league for the office.
In the past, there are instances where the NFL administration expressed remorse for their actions and changed their policy. After settling Colin Kaepernick’s lawsuit out of court and sentencing all players who kneel during the national anthem, several prominent players have released a video challenging the league to do better after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Roger Goodel, assignment on the league’s official Twitter account, responded by saying, “‘We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players sooner, and encourage everyone to speak up and to protest peacefully. “”
The following season, the league included anti-racism messages in the end zone of games and allowed players to include one of six social justice messages on their helmets. The league has also pledged to donate $250 million to the fight against systemic racism over the next ten years and to use the NFL Network and other media properties to encourage education about issues of social justice.
For some, the league’s response to systematic racism was seen as an encouraging step in the right direction, while for others it was called a long-overdue apology for a problem the league has helped perpetuate. . Now, given the plethora of issues 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 maintain his position for the foreseeable future. He will decide how the league office will deal with these allegations, but for perhaps the first time in its history, the NFL could face real consequences for its inaction; the New York Attorney General has been clear about this. The league is going to have to make tough decisions about how to sever issues of sexism and racism within its administration or it will face consequences beyond a bad title or two.