As N.F.L. Fights Racism and Sexism, Team Owners Undercut the Message


Yet the league has policed its owners inconsistently, in part because the circumstances around allegations that have surfaced have widely varied. The episodes surrounding Johnson and others raise fresh questions about how much the N.F.L. can change its culture without scrutinizing those with the most power in its franchises.

“They have the same story and it keeps repeating itself,” said Upton Bell, a longtime football executive and the son of Bert Bell, a former commissioner and onetime owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. “It isn’t possible for the N.F.L. to be progressive.”

Johnson denied the allegations on the ambassador’s official Twitter account.

“I have followed the ethical rules and requirements of my office at all times,” he wrote. “These false claims of insensitive remarks about race and gender are totally inconsistent with my longstanding record and values.”

In a statement, the N.F.L. said it was aware of accusations of problematic comments made by Johnson, but referred questions to the State Department. The league did not specify what action, if any, it is taking.

The Jets said in a statement that since the Johnson family bought the team 20 years ago, the team has supported “many different social justice, diversity, women’s, and inclusion initiatives.”

At least one Jets player, star safety Jamal Adams, called out Johnson.

“Right is right. Wrong is wrong!” Adams wrote on Twitter. “If u don’t think this is wrong you’re part of the problem not the solution.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity among N.F.L. coaches, said it was “deeply troubled by allegations of insensitive remarks” by Johnson. The group, which is named after the league’s first African-American head coach, called on the league “to take appropriate action” if warranted.



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