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Reimer: NFL Network lawsuit means #MeToo movement is heading towards pro sports

Alex Reimer
December 12, 2017 - 4:15 pm

The #MeToo movement has deposed powerful men in Hollywood, media, politics and business. Now it appears to be racing towards the world of professional sports.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported a former wardrobe stylist for NFL Network filed a wrongful termination suit against NFL Enterprises in Los Angeles Superior Court back in October. In it, Jami Cantor describes incidents of harassment from several high-profile ex-players and one executive. The accusations include workplace propositions for sex, incessant groping and unsolicited pornographic text messages. 

In her amended complaint, Cantor says former Patriots fullback Heath Evans sent nude pictures of himself and constantly asked for sex. He also allegedly made inappropriate comments to Cantor, such as expressing his desire to be in her “deep and hard.”

The charges against Marshall Faulk include repeated physical violations, such as the time he allegedly pinned Cantor against a wall and demanded oral sex while pulling his pants down. Warren Sapp, who the network dismissed after he was arrested for assaulting a prostitute at the Super Bowl in 2015, reportedly gifted the plaintiff sex toys for Christmas three years in a row. She also says Sapp once urinated in front of her in the bathroom, where she was preparing clothes. Former cornerback Ike Taylor allegedly sent a video that showed him pleasuring himself in the shower.  

The complaints also include ESPN analysts Eric Davis and Donovan McNabb, who used to work at NFL Network. McNabb reportedly sent Cantor lurid texts, asking how her body functioned during sex. Davis, according to court documents, had a habit of asking Cantor to engage in rough sex with him. On one occasion, Davis allegedly grabbed Cantor’s butt, and berated her when she slapped his hand away. 

It’s apparent this perverted behavior went up to management. The lawsuit alleges that Eric Weinberger, who now runs Bill Simmons’ website, The Ringer, pressed his crotch against Cantor and said she was “put on earth” to pleasure him. 

All alleged offenders have been suspended or placed on leave by their respective employers.

Up until this point, a smattering of sports figures have been accused of sexual misconduct over the last three months, since the New York Times and New Yorker published explosive allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Last week, former quarterback Warren Moon was accused of drugging, grabbing and threatening one of his ex-assistants. 

But the behavior outlined in Cantor’s lawsuit is the most widespread example of sexual harassment in the sports world that’s been alleged yet. If true, NFL Network will have to answer immense questions about its workplace environment, much like Fox News. The cable channel cut ties with now-deceased CEO Roger Ailes and anchor Bill O’Reilly amidst lurid accusations against them.

Any sexual harassment scandal involving NFL Network will also touch the NFL, which owns and operates the television channel. That is bad news for a scandal-ridden league that’s repeatedly been condemned for its laissez-faire handling of domestic violence. 

Embattled commissioner Roger Goodell is currently dealing with the concussion crisis, sagging TV ratings and fractured relations amongst the league office and some high-powered owners. An intensive investigation into alleged serial sexual misconduct at the NFL’s official television network would be another unwelcome addition to his crop of nightmares.

The NFL isn’t the only professional sports league that has to worry about this. The NBA, MLB and NHL also operate their own 24-hour sports networks, where ex-jocks and female employees congregate daily.

ESPN has dealt with numerous sexual harassment cases throughout its nearly 40-year existence, as outlined in James Andrew Miller’s oral history, “Those Guys Have All the Fun.” The network used to be infamous for its employees’ rampant sexual misconduct.  

If this kind of behavior has occurred at ESPN, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox News and other television networks, it's possible it has happened at these specialty sports channels, too. Accusations against the analysts, many of whom are former players, may only continue to multiply –– perhaps including alleged incidents that took place during their playing days. Then, the scandal would touch all aspects of these sports leagues. 

The NFL Network lawsuit was not reported on for two months. Expect that to change in a big way. 

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