The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which champions diversity in the NFL, is “deeply troubled” by allegations that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson made racist and sexist remarks in his role as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Fritz Pollard chairman Harry Carson and executive director Rod Graves, a former Jets executive, released a statement Thursday morning calling for the league to monitor the matter and to take action, if necessary.
“The Fritz Pollard Alliance is deeply troubled by allegations of insensitive remarks about race and gender made by [Johnson] …,” the statement said. “Allegations of this nature, if true, are damaging to the social fabric of our country and cannot be tolerated.
“While only allegations at this point, they are serious. We call on the NFL to carefully monitor this situation and, if the allegations have merit, to take appropriate action and work toward rooting out such sentiments from the NFL community.”
The NFL acknowledged that it is aware of the matter but referred media inquiries to the State Department.
Johnson, who relinquished day-to-day control of the franchise in 2017 to accept the diplomatic post, is being investigated by the State Department inspector general amid allegations he made racist comments about Black men and questioned the purpose of Black History Month, CNN reported Wednesday. He allegedly argued that Black fathers don’t remain with their families, calling that the “real challenge.”
He also commented on women’s appearances at the embassy and public events, according to CNN’s report, and said that he preferred working with women because they are cheaper and work harder. Johnson reportedly held gatherings at a men’s-only club, preventing female diplomats from attending, before he was told by another diplomat to stop the practice.
Johnson, in a 33-word statement released on his Twitter account, denied that he made insensitive remarks about race and gender. He also said he has “followed the ethical rules and requirements of my office at all times” — a reference to a New York Times report that said he once tried to use his position to lure the Open Championship to President Donald Trump’s Turnberry Resort in Scotland.
On Wednesday, Trump denied the report, telling reporters at the White House, “I read a story about it today, and I … never spoke to Woody Johnson about doing that, no.”
Johnson’s three-year term as ambassador soon will be over, and there’s a chance he could return to the Jets by the end of the year. His younger brother, Christopher, has been running the franchise since August 2017.