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Five Former Players Accused of Sexual Harassment in Lawsuit

On-air talent has been suspended while the NFL Network investigates the sexual harassment allegations.

Six men—including five former NFL players—have now been suspended across three sports media organizations following detailed allegations of sexual harassment from a former NFL Network employee. Jami Cantor, who worked for the network from 2006 into ’16, made the claims as part of a lawsuit against the company. The NFL Network suspended Marshall Faulk, Ike Taylor, and Heath Evans after Cantor accused them of exposing themselves to her either in person or electronically. She also claims Faulk touched her inappropriately. ESPN has suspended Eric Davis and Donovan McNabb pending an investigation; Cantor alleges that Davis groped her and that McNabb sent explicit text messages.

Eric Weinberger, a former executive producer at NFL Network, was suspended by The Ringer, which said it would conduct its own investigation into Cantor's claim that Weinberger sent her lewd pictures and texts. Deadspin has posted the full complaint.

Michael McCann broke down the implications of the lawsuit and the claims within it. For a bigger picture look at the news and its significance, we turned to Jessica Luther, the author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape and a freelance reporter who has written about the intersection of sports and sexual violence. 

FELDMAN: What has the reaction been to this news?

LUTHER: My initial reaction was, "and here we go," in that #MeToo had finally made it to sports media, and I assumed it always would (it was only back in July when Jamie Horowitz was fired from FOX Sports because of sexual harassment and sports media is so overwhelmingly male, moreso than, I believe, any other media). But my lack of surprise does not mean I was not floored and, quite frankly, disgusted at the behavior that was detailed in the lawsuit and subsequent legal filings.

FELDMAN: You've said that some of the toxic aspects of football "excuses or even protects bad male behavior (and) recreates hierarchy that can be harmful to women." Could those toxic aspects of 'locker room culture' seep into sports media organizations as well, particularly ones dominated by former players?​

LUTHER: This is a tricky question. I mean, yes, is the short answer. That mentality that we have a cultural shorthand for—"locker room behavior"—could certainly carry over into work spaces and I think making that connection is useful to a degree. But I think it's important to note, especially in this moment, that in any space that has hierarchy, where power is distributed unevenly, the space is mainly full of men, and the men are the ones in that space that hold the power (or the vast majority of power), you are going to find the kind of stuff we saw detailed in the lawsuit about the NFL Network, as well as in Hollywood circles, or newsrooms, or within athletic departments, or on Broadway, or in Silicon Valley, etc.

FELDMAN: How do you see the #MeToo movement impacting women, sports, and media?

LUTHER: I honestly can't say. I don't know what the #MeToo movement's legacy will be generally. Sports media, as I said before, is overwhelming male (there are estimates between 85 and 90% of sports reporters and editors are men) and so speaking out about harassment or assault in that space is particularly hard because it's unclear how receptive people within sports media (men) will be to those reports and what the lasting impact will be on the people who come forward. What I hope is that men, in particular, in sports media are listening, are not just pointing fingers but are taking stock of their own past behaviors, are pledging to seriously address how power works to the detriment of specific people within sports media and then actually doing something (anything) about it, and are going to look at how not diverse sports media is (not just with gender, but race and sexuality and class etc.) and actively work to change that. 

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