NFL warned by 6 attorneys general to fix workplace harassment issues or face investigation

Attorneys general for New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Minnesota reportedly sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, warning him that the league will face a major investigation if the alleged workplace harassment of women and minorities isn't addressed and corrected.

According to The New York Times, the letter outlined the "grave concerns" the attorneys general have regarding the workplace culture of the NFL's front office, concerns that originated from a Times report that was published in February.

In that report, over 30 female former NFL employees spoke to the Times about their treatment in the eight years since the scandal surrounding the league's handling of the Ray Rice video. What they revealed was a culture that allegedly stifled and marginalized women, especially women of color, favored male employees and executives, retaliated and discriminated against women, and trivialized domestic violence issues.

According to the Times, the letter makes it clear that the attorneys general will pursue a broad investigation of the NFL if it doesn't fix the alleged problems.

“All of this is entirely unacceptable and potentially unlawful,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter, which was obtained by The Times, adding that 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.” The league headquarters are in Manhattan, and Letitia James, the New York attorney general, was among the signers.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 14: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to 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)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell received a warning letter from 6 attorneys general about alleged workplace harassment issues in the NFL. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Problems piling up for NFL

The letter from the six attorneys general is the latest in a string of high-profile problems for the NFL, all ostensibly created by the NFL or one of its teams.

  • Former Miami head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos in February, alleging racial discrimination in the head coach hiring process. He claims that the Giants interviewed him for their head coach position only to satisfy the Rooney Rule, as they'd already decided to hire Brian Daboll. Flores discovered that information in an alleged text message conversation with Bill Belichick before the interview took place.

  • Fallout continues from the NFL's investigation into sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment within the Washington Commanders. The NFL released no written report of its findings despite fining team owner Dan Snyder $10 million and removing him from day-to-day operations. The lack of a written report caused the House Oversight Committee to begin an investigation, in which the NFL and Snyder declined to turn over more than 60,000 emails reviewed during the investigation.

  • Congress reportedly expanded its investigation into the Commanders after receiving information that the team was keeping two sets of books so it could hide ticket revenue from the NFL. The Commanders denied the accusations.

  • The NFL is investigating the Commanders for the second time regarding workplace misconduct allegations, this time centered on Snyder himself.

  • Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned in Oct. 2021 after emails using racist, homophobic and misogynistic language were leaked to the media. Those emails were likely from the 60,000 emails reviewed as part of the Commanders investigation, which led Gruden to sue the NFL and accuse it of targeting him.

  • The NFL has been investigating Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson to determine if he violated the league's personal conduct policy, and there has been zero indication of when that investigation will end and if it will result in discipline. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct by 22 women, and each of them have filed a civil lawsuit against him. Grand juries in Texas have declined to file criminal charges.