NFL Films ‘maintained database of cheerleaders’ buttocks, breasts and cleavage shots’: lawsuit

NFL Films, the official production arm of the National Football League, was flagged for keeping an extensive database of raunchy footage that lingered on cheerleaders’ breasts and buttocks, according to a bombshell lawsuit.

Victoria Russell, a human resources employee fired by NFL Films last year, revealed the “sexualized and offensive descriptions of women” in a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL in New Jersey in January, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The suit alleges NFL Films — which bolstered the league’s popularity with famed phrases like the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field — used timestamps to catalogue clips that included “cheerleaders buttocks, cheerleaders rear end, female fan in bikini top, naughty camera work, close up of cheerleader’s breasts, cleavage shot and shot of endowed woman.”

The league countered that the footage was classified as “sensitive” so that the videos were never rebroadcast.

A former human resources employee at NFL Films filed a gender and race discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey state court.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“NFL Films logs and stores every frame of footage shot by its cinematographers, freelance camera people, and the broadcast networks,” the NFL’s chief spokesperson, Brian McCarthy, told The Post.

“That footage inevitably includes images of fans, cheerleaders, and even players that may not be appropriate for inclusion in the content that NFL Films produces.”

McCarthy added: “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.”

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

The Post has sought comment from Russell’s attorney.

Russell, who is black, was hired by NFL Films in 2018. She alleges in her legal filing that the NFL’s corporate offices are rife with “rampant misconduct against women, particularly women of color.”

She claims she was denied “opportunities for advancement and pay increases” despite her “excellent performance and despite her taking on additional work,” according to the filing.

When she was finally promoted, Russell was given a pay raise of just $1.18 per hour, according to the court filing.

The league also refused to provide Russell “a permanent workspace in its offices, a privilege afforded to virtually every white and male employee, including interns, contractors, and part-time employees,” according to the court filing.

The lawsuit alleges that NFL Films employees catalogued close-up images of cheerleaders' anatomy.
The lawsuit alleges that NFL Films employees catalogued close-up images of cheerleaders’ anatomy.

Russell alleges that when she complained to Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s chief diversity officer, she was fired, according to the court filing. Her last day of employment at the NFL was April 8, 2022, court papers indicated.

“We are committed to providing all employees a workplace that is respectful, diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment,” McCarthy told The Post.

“We strive to provide all members of the NFL the ability to thrive with equal access to growth, development and opportunity.”

“Consistent with this commitment, the NFL did not discriminate or retaliate against Ms. Russell during her time as a temporary staff member,” McCarthy added.

“We will vigorously defend against these claims.”

Atrium Staffing, a job placement agency which “coordinated the renewal of Russell’s contract with the NFL,” is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The Post has sought comment from Atrium Staffing.

NFL Films, which is headquartered in Mt. Laurel Township, NJ, was founded in the mid-1960s by the late Ed Sabol. Its feature films and documentaries — which include its signature slow-motion replays, dramatic musical scores and real-game sounds from players and coaches — helped bolster the league’s image.

Sabol’s son, the late Steve Sabol, is credited with being the creative driving force behind NFL Films. The Sabols are the third father-son duo to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The NFL has been hit with several lawsuits and claims alleging racial and gender discrimination in recent years.

In February of last year, it was learned that the Dallas Cowboys paid a confidential $2.4 million settlement to four members of the Dallas Cowgirls cheerleading squad who alleged that a team executive was engaged in voyeurism. The settlement was agreed to in May 2016.

Brian Flores, a black assistant coach who was fired as head coach by the Miami Dolphins, filed suit a year ago against the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos.

Flores alleges in the class-action filing that the league discriminated against him during coaching interviews.

Last year, it was learned that members of the Dallas Cowgirls cheerleading squad received a $2.4 million settlement.
Last year, it was learned that members of the Dallas Cowgirls cheerleading squad received a $2.4 million settlement.

The Giants responded to the suit by saying they were “pleased and confident” with their hiring process, which netted them Brian Daboll, the recently crowned AP Coach of the Year for 2022.

The Broncos and Dolphins denied Flores’ allegations. The lawsuit remains pending in the courts.

In October 2021, members of the Washington Commanders’ cheerleading squad demanded that the NFL release the results of an investigation into allegations that coaches shared inappropriate photos of certain members via email.

Last year, six ex-employees of the team alleged that owner Dan Snyder instructed the team’s video department to splice together a sexually suggestive video of cheerleaders exposing their private areas.

A recent report issued by Congress alleged that Snyder presided over a “toxic work culture” for more than two decades. Snyder is currently in the process of searching for a buyer for the franchise, which Forbes has valued at $5.6 billion.

The results of the NFL’s investigation into the toxic workplace have yet to be released.

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, and his supporters have claimed that the league’s owners colluded in keeping him out of pro football after he famously introduced the gesture of taking a knee before the national anthem.

Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2017.