Leave it to the imagination of the National Football League to create a new tradition for the annual March observance of Women’s History Month. This is supposed to be a time to celebrate the achievements of women, but NFL Films has been exposed for allegedly creating a video stash of revealing women’s body parts.
This came to light in a Wall Street Journal story about Victoria Russell, who is suing NFL Films after being fired from her job in the NFL Films human resources department. She was terminated last year for allegedly reporting that her employer had created a database of “sexualized and offensive descriptions of women.”
The lawsuit includes claims by Russell that the database includes catalogued descriptions of video, such as “cheerleaders buttocks,” “cheerleaders rear end,” “female fan in bikini top,” “naughty camera work,” “close up of cheerleader’s breasts; cleavage shot,” “shot of endowed woman” and “random woman, cleavage shot.”
Russell’s lawsuit also accuses NFL Films of mistreating her because she is “a black woman who worked in human resources for the NFL between 2018 and 2022.” She claims to have been deprived of a dedicated workspace, pay raises and advancement opportunities that white and male employees received. The NFL denied the charges of discrimination and retaliation and said her firing was over job performance.
“Those frames are logged as ‘sensitive’ so that they can be removed from circulation, meaning they will not be accessible to employees whose job it is to locate footage for productions,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. If that’s the case, why weren’t the clips deleted forever?
The NFL says Russell did not have log-in access to the files in question, and her job did not have responsibilities connected with them.
“We are committed to providing all employees a workplace that is respectful, diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment,” said McCarthy. “The NFL didn’t discriminate or retaliate against Ms. Russell during her time as a temporary staff member. We will vigorously defend against these claims.”
Russell countered that the logs were used for inappropriate means and that she had a “front-row seat to the NFL’s culture of sexual harassment.” In 2018, she discovered “a chat room log tracking timestamps on NFL footage and linking the timestamps to sexualized and offensive descriptions of women captured on that footage. The commentary associated with the timestamps included approximately 14 pages of sexually degrading remarks about women.”
Is NFL Films trying to cover its tracks in hopes of disputing the race charge? It’s been reported that two-thirds of the NFL’s most recent hires were women or people of color.
If Russell’s charges are legitimate and if a court agrees with her charges, then the NFL may have to revise its “Football is gay, lesbian, queer and transgender” video, to add “sexist.” That depends on what happens in the legal battle.