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NFL kept lewd footage of women cataloged with ‘sexually degrading’ descriptions, ex-employee says in lawsuit

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A former NFL human resources employee alleges that NFL Films, the league’s production company, has a catalog in its archive of “lewd shots of women,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Victoria Russell filed an employee discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey earlier this year, claiming she found “a chat room log tracking time stamps on NFL footage and linking the time stamps to sexualized and offensive descriptions of women captured on that footage.” 

This came after she did a 2018 audit of the company’s human resources system. 

Russell, who was a temporary worker at the time, saw descriptions that included “cheerleader buttocks,” “cheerleaders rear end,” “close up of cheerleaders’ breasts; cleavage shot,” “random woman, cleavage shot,” “female fan in bikini top,” “shot of endowed woman” and “naughty camera work.”

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The NFL logo on the field prior to a game between the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Dec. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. 

The NFL logo on the field prior to a game between the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Dec. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla.  (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Wall Street Journal these “sensitive” images are marked to make sure no one uses it in future content. However, he noted that Russell’s allegations are inaccurate. 

“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,” McCarthy said. “Ms. Russell didn’t have credentials for the logging system, nor did any aspect of her responsibilities involve accessing footage.”

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Russell is suing the league for its treatment of her as a Black woman. She worked with the NFL from 2018 to 2022 and alleges she was denied pay raises, advancement opportunities and a dedicated workspace unlike male employees. 

Russell claims she was fired abruptly after complaining to “the league’s chief diversity officer,” which came six months after she got a promotion she felt was delayed. That delay came while she was pregnant. Russell says she wasn’t given any warnings about her performance. 

An NFL Films cameraman films prior to a game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia.

An NFL Films cameraman films prior to a game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

“The league denies discriminating or retaliating against here,” McCarthy said, via WSJ. “We are committed to providing all employees a workplace that is respectful, diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment.”

The Wall Street Journal added that “people familiar with the league’s thinking” said Russell’s contract with her agency wasn’t renewed due to performance-related issues. 

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The publication added that, of the NFL’s hires last year, two-thirds were women or people of color. The top three HR executives at the league are also Black, two of them women. 

NFL Films has become a vital part for the fan experience as well as preserving the history of the NFL, using the latest in production technology to capture the game like we’ve never seen it before. It is responsible for working with HBO to produce “Hard Knocks,” which follows one team throughout training camp and in season. 

An NFL Films cameraman films a game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia.

An NFL Films cameraman films a game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Mic’d up moments from the sidelines and in game are also the responsibility of the company. 

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