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Attorneys general from six states warn NFL that it could be investigated for workplace harassment

Mike Florio explains what a judge's decision requiring Deshaun Watson to answer questions about consensual interactions with other massage therapists means as the QB's legal issues continue.

When it comes to the practical consequences of NFL controversies, the league always has an eye on the legislative branch of the government. The NFL should keep the other eye on the judicial branch.

Prosecutors have broad powers and extreme discretion. Many of the issues that attract the attention of Congress also could attract the attention of the Department of Justice. Currently, the league has gotten the attention of the chief law enforcement officers in multiple states.

According to the New York Times, six attorneys general have informed the league that they have “grave concerns” regarding allegations of workplace harassment of women and minorities. They have warned the NFL that, if the league doesn’t take steps to address the problem, a broad investigation could occur.

The issue was outlined for Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter sent Tuesday. New York attorney general Letitia James is one of the six who signed the letter. (The other five weren’t named in the article.)

The NFL has been dealing with multiple workplace-related controversies in recent months, from the Commanders situation to the Jon Gruden emails to the Brian Flores litigation to the Cowboys cheerleaders voyeurism scandal and more. The Browns recently became a magnet for criticism after trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson and giving him a five-year, fully-guaranteed, $230 million contract, despite the fact that he is the defendant in 22 pending civil cases alleging sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

The letter specifies concerns on which the Times reported in February, including allegations that female staff members had to watch the Ray Rice elevator video, that they had to publicly declare if they have been victims of domestic violence, and that they have been marginalized or nudged aside if they questioned the league’s handling of sexual harassment issues.

This represents a new area of concern for the league, beyond the involvement of Congress or the potential filing of lawsuits, which the league routinely tries to force to private arbitration. If these attorneys general go forward, the NFL’s conduct will be scrutinized and publicized -- and potentially prosecuted.

If that threat/promise doesn’t spark something more than lip service from 345 Park Avenue, nothing will.