Unsportsmanlike conduct: Sexual harassment at the NFL Network? Update: "When you gonna get on this already?"

Didn’t the National Football League have enough trouble already with its anthem protests, concussion woes, and domestic abuse allegations? A lawsuit filed in October and amended yesterday against the league’s cable channel operations alleges that an executive producer and two of its on-camera stars engaged in repeated acts of sexual harassment that targeted a wardrobe specialist. The NFL Network has suspended three people pending an investigation, but more flags may be coming:

A former executive producer at the National Football League’s TV network and ex-players including Marshall Faulk and Heath Evans allegedly groped and made sexually explicit comments to female colleague Jami Cantor, according to an amended complaint by Cantor, a former employee. …

Cantor, a wardrobe stylist at the NFL Network, said Weinberger sent “several nude pictures of himself and sexually explicit texts” and told her she was “put on earth to pleasure me.” He also pressed his crotch against Cantor’s shoulder and asked her to touch it, according to the complaint.

She said she was also sexually harassed by on-air talent. Faulk, who’s an NFL Network analyst, would ask Cantor “deeply personal and invasive questions” about her sex life and fondled her breasts and groped her behind, according to the complaint.

Weinberger had moved to the Bill Simmons Media Group as its president after leaving the NFL Network. His current employer suspended him as well, citing the “serious and disturbing allegations” in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges a fairly wide pattern of sexual harassment by its on-air talent with an amendment to the original complaint filed on Monday. Cantor names several renowned former NFL players, some of whom no longer work at the channel. Supervisors saw it unfold and did nothing to help Cantor, who was fired from the network last year:

NFL Network has suspended the analysts Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans and Ike Taylor “pending an investigation” into allegations of sexual harassment and assault, the network announced late Monday. …

In the complaint, Cantor says that Faulk, a Hall of Fame running back, asked personal questions about her sex life, fondled her and pulled out his genitals while demanding oral sex; that Evans, a former fullback, sent nude pictures and propositioned her; and that Taylor, a former cornerback, sent her a video that showed him masturbating. Cantor said that Weinberger, who left the network in 2015, groped her and put his crotch against her.

The lawsuit also said that Cantor had been harassed by the former N.F.L. players and ex-NFL Network analysts Donovan McNabb and Warren Sapp, as well as by the former network employee Marc Watts. Sapp was fired from the network in 2015 after being arrested for assault and soliciting prostitution. McNabb left the network in 2013, but later lost a job with Fox Sports after pleading guilty to drunken driving in November 2015.

“The supervisors knew about it, the supervisors observed it,” Cantor’s lawyer, Laura Horton, said in an interview on Monday. “It was insidious in this particular environment.”

It’s not the first time that a former NFL player has been accused of sexual harassment; it’s not even the first time in the post-Weinstein era. Last week, a lawsuit filed in Orange County alleged that Hall of Famer Warren Moon required an assistant at his marketing company to sleep in his bed and to allow Moon to enter the bathroom while she showered. Wendy Haskell also alleges that Moon spiked her drink once because, he told her, she didn’t look like she was “having fun.” (Moon denies all the allegations.)

This is, however, the first time that the league has been directly involved in the allegations. The league owns and operates the NFL Network as part of its own media complex, with a reach of over 70 million homes in the US. This adds to the other scandals with which commissioner Roger Goodell is handling just days after signing a $200 million contract extension with owners.

Granted, the cultural paradigm shift on sexual harassment has been both recent and rapid, and lots of organizations will find themselves behind the curve on cleaning up their environments. Most of those organizations don’t spend nearly as much of their time lecturing their customers as the NFL does, however, on a laundry list of social issues. Even putting aside the national anthem protests and some of the more controversial issues pushed by players, the league and its players have had campaigns for years against bullying and domestic abuse, both of which are worthy causes. If these allegations are substantiated,  Goodell and the NFL should remove the beam from their own eyes first before attending to the motes in the eyes of others.

Given the multiplying woes that the league faces, perhaps the owners might listen to Jerry Jones in the future when it comes to Roger Goodell.

Update: Deadspin has the full complaint at its site, and the NFL has more problems ahead:

Some “highlights”:

Heath Evans sent Plaintiff nude pictures of himself on at least two separate occasions. Mr. Evans constantly propositioned Plaintiff to have sex with him. Mr. Evans also made several sexually inappropriate comments to Plaintiff, such as, “you’re making me horny,” and “needed to get in you deep and hard.” …

As time went on, Mr. Faulk became more aggressive, such as inviting Plaintiff to his hotel room, stroking and pulling out his genitals in front of her, pointing to his crotch and asking Plaintiff, “when are you gonna get on this already?” He also pinned Plaintiff against a wall, demanding oral sex while he pulled his pants down. …

“[Former analyst Eric Davis] loved really rough sex and would love to be able to spank [Plaintiff] so hard it would leave marks,” “can tell you like it rough and would love it.” Mr. Davis also asked Plaintiff to have rough sex with him, and said that he wanted to choke Plaintiff from behind until Plaintiff begged him to stop. Also, while Plaintiff was working on set on a ladder, Mr. Davis grabbed Plaintiff’s behind, slid his hand between Plaintiff’s legs, and touched Plaintiff’s privates, while saying, “I can’t handle your ass it is so luscious.” When Plaintiff slapped his hand away, Mr. Davis aggressively told Plaintiff to never push his hand away again.”

According to the complaint, NFL Network supervisors became aware of the issue at least when Warren Sapp was still one of its analysts. Sapp got canned a couple of years ago after getting arrested for assault and for soliciting a prostitute at the Super Bowl in 2015. The plaintiff didn’t get fired until more than a year later.