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Las Vegas Raiders Franchise Riddled With Dysfunction and Executive Departures

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The Las Vegas Raiders have been rocked by a mass exodus of front office leaders amid financial irregularities and dire management blunders like overpaying taxes and underpaying certain employees for years.

The newest upheaval got here last week with the ouster of the team’s interim team president. That executive, Dan Ventrelle, responded by accusing the owner, Mark Davis, whose family has run the team for greater than 50 years, of making a hostile work environment, without giving specifics.

It was certainly one of many examples of a workplace racked by years of dysfunction, and the newest sign of an N.F.L. franchise with troubled inner workings. For the reason that Raiders moved to Las Vegas from Oakland, Calif., in 2020, with high hopes in a growing market, six of the team’s eight top executives have quit or been fired with little explanation, either publicly or internally.

In interviews with The Recent York Times, greater than a dozen former employees, a few of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed agreements with the team prohibiting them from discussing their employment publicly, described quite a few problems large and small. There have been, they said, lax controls over how money was spent and the way people were paid and even the bungling of the payment of its taxes over several years. Not long after its move, the team missed a payment for the electrical bill in its temporary office, forcing the lights to be shut off.

No person has asserted the financial disorder amounts to any crimes, but erroneous information on company ledgers can generally result in problems with creditors, regulators, the league and others.

Employees who raised concerns over the team’s operations were often ignored or pushed out and given settlements and nondisclosure agreements to maintain them quiet.

“If anyone complained, they were let go,” said Nicole Adams, who worked within the human resources department for nearly five years. She was pushed out in late 2020 and declined to sign a severance agreement that she said would have prevented her from speaking about her tenure on the team. She said that Ventrelle, then the team’s general counsel, “joked he could be able to settle if anyone got here forward with a charge.”

Ventrelle didn’t answer requests for comment, but he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal shortly after he left that he had been making an effort to wash things up and had informed league officials of written complaints from employees of alleged misconduct.

The Raiders didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The N.F.L. declined to comment on Friday. After Ventrelle’s claims last week a few hostile work environment on the team, an N.F.L. spokesman, Brian McCarthy, said the league would look into the matter.

“We recently became aware of those allegations and take them very seriously,” McCarthy said.

The decimation of the front office staff is the newest in a series of setbacks for the Raiders. In October, Coach Jon Gruden resigned after The Times detailed emails wherein he had made homophobic and misogynistic remarks before he was in his second stint with the team. Two players from his tenure have been accused of felony crimes.

The team’s troubles come at a time when the N.F.L., more popular than ever with fans, grapples with serious questions around the best way the league and a few teams are run. The league has been stung by a scandal on the Washington Commanders, where dozens of female employees accused team owner Daniel Snyder and top executives of harassment. The team last 12 months was fined $10 million and has replaced many executives and rebranded itself. A congressional committee and attorneys general in Virginia and the District of Columbia are investigating among the accusations, including mismanagement of the team’s funds.

Women who worked at N.F.L. headquarters have also complained about an office culture that marginalized them, allegations that prompted attorneys general from Recent York and five other states to threaten to research the N.F.L. if conditions didn’t improve.

After years languishing in a crumbling stadium in Oakland, the Raiders sought to reinvent themselves in Las Vegas, where they play in a latest, heavily subsidized $2 billion stadium that may host the 2024 Super Bowl, the league’s premier event. In 2021, the Raiders’ second season at Allegiant Stadium, the team finished 10-7 and lost in the primary round of the N.F.L. playoffs. The worth of the team has swelled to greater than $3 billion helped by the prospect of adding more fans within the fast-growing Las Vegas area.

While many other N.F.L. teams are owned by billionaires who amassed their wealth in other industries, the Raiders are a family business. The franchise is essentially the creation of Al Davis, who was the team’s coach and general manager before seizing ownership control in 1972. The team was Davis’s principal business until he died in 2011.

Mark Davis, the son of Al Davis, is now the team’s principal owner. Within the years before he took the daring step of moving the team to Las Vegas, he was mostly hands-off and left the day-to-day running of the club to trusted lieutenants. They included Marc Badain, the longtime president who had been near the Davis family for a long time.

Several former employees who spoke to The Times said that Davis was rarely seen across the office. There was little oversight of expenses, employees said, and money was often disbursed and not using a clear accounting of where it was going.

By some accounts, Davis began to take a more in-depth have a look at the inner workings of his team last 12 months. Two former employees said a management consulting firm was brought in to evaluate the organizational structure. And while it isn’t known precisely what Davis found, several top executives — Badain; Ed Villanueva, the chief financial officer; and Araxie Grant, the team’s controller — were soon gone.

Three months later, Davis gave an evidence.

“I believe it’s just about clear now, or I don’t know if it is obvious now, however it was just about accounting irregularities,” including the overpayment of taxes, Davis told reporters at a league meeting in Recent York. “That’s why the C.F.O. left, the controller left and the president left, that’s what it was.”

Badain and Villanueva haven’t spoken publicly, and didn’t reply to requests for comment for this story. But Grant denied Davis’s claims, releasing an announcement that said, partly, “I can say that I actually have never been involved in any financial impropriety or wrongdoing before or during my 20-month tenure with the Raiders.”

That irregularities could occur didn’t surprise veteran employees, who said the team, with roots going back to 1960, had yet to modernize much of its operations.

“The Raiders form of operate back within the Stone Age,” Adams said. One other former worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of profession repercussions, said “every thing was still very much paper, files, boxes, warehouses.”

What happened in the highest offices inevitably affected the workers below. Staff were systematically underpaid, prompting lawsuits which have resulted within the Raiders paying greater than $1 million in settlements. In 2017, the Raiders settled a lawsuit with dozens of former cheerleaders who accused the team of paying them lower than the minimum wage in the course of the 2010 to 2013 seasons. The team paid $1.25 million to the ladies to pay them the equivalent of minimum wage, and to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.

Cheerleaders weren’t the one employees treated poorly. Adams, who began within the human resources department in 2016, said she was told to create job descriptions that might make it unimaginable for workers to file for extra time regardless that employees could log 12 or more hours during game days, training camp and other busy periods.

Adams said that she told her boss that skirting extra time was illegal. Her boss agreed, but said that Ventrelle wanted it done.

Understand the N.F.L.’s Recent Controversies

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A wave of scrutiny. The most well-liked sports league in America is facing criticism and legal issues on several fronts, starting from discrimination to athletes’ injuries. Here’s a have a look at among the recent controversies confronting the N.F.L., its executives and teams:

Allegations of potential fraud. A former ticket salesman for the Washington Commanders claimed that the team skimmed revenue from ticket sales meant to be shared with the remainder of the N.F.L. and withheld security deposits from fans. The franchise has sent 102 pages of documents rebutting the claims to the Federal Trade Commission.

Sexual harassment claims. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Commanders, is the topic of an N.F.L. inquiry after sexual harassment allegations were made against him by former employees. In July, the league fined the franchise $10 million after an investigation into allegations of harassment within the team’s front office.

A demoralizing culture for ladies. After the 2014 Ray Rice scandal, the N.F.L. stepped up its efforts to rent and promote women. But greater than 30 former staff members interviewed by The Times described a stifling corporate culture that has left many ladies feeling brushed off. Six attorneys general warned the league to handle the issues or it could face an investigation.

Adams, who’s Black, filed a grievance against the Raiders with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. Within the grievance, which was reviewed by The Times, she accused the team of discriminating against her due to her race and retaliating against her after she raised concerns about pay disparities and unequal treatment.

Individually, in 2020, Nicolle Reeder, a former Raiders worker, sued the team on behalf of herself and other game-day employees, accusing the team of violating labor laws by denying them required rest and meal breaks and never paying wages on time. The suit was settled last 12 months for $325,000, a fraction of which was distributed amongst greater than 400 affected employees.

Bradley Kaplan, who worked as a scout for 12 years, sued the Raiders in 2019 because, he said in a lawsuit, he was demoted after telling the team he and his wife were expecting a toddler in the course of the football season. He said that after he expressed concerns about balancing his football and family responsibilities, and after he requested family leave, he was fired. The team successfully moved these claims to arbitration, where they were resolved behind closed doors.

Kaplan also claimed in his lawsuit that the Raiders required some football operations personnel to sign illegal confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements, which he said prevented employees from discussing matters related to their employment or raising concerns about working conditions. The Raiders denied these claims, but agreed to a $25,000 settlement in 2021 covering the 65 past or present employees who signed contracts with such confidentiality provisions between July 2018 and September 2021.

Lawsuits against the team alleging poor working conditions proceed to be filed. Matthew Proscia, who worked for The Raider Image, the team’s apparel stores, filed a class-action lawsuit last month accusing the team of extra time pay violations and a “company-wide policy and practice of refusing to pay full each day extra time wages to Nevada employees who worked over eight hours in a workday.”

The Raiders have yet to reply to Proscia’s grievance.

Ventrelle, who had been the team’s general counsel, was named interim president after Badain suddenly left in July. A wave of high-level worker departures followed. Tom Blanda, who was in command of constructing the stadium; Mark Shearer, the chief revenue officer; and Brandon Doll, the vice chairman in command of business strategy, all left the team.

Credit…Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The departed executives collectively had put in greater than 100 years of labor for the Raiders, with most of their tenures stretching back to when Al Davis was still alive.

“Current people tell me the culture is worse than they’ve seen it,” Adams said.

Days after Badain’s departure, business-side employees were gathered right into a team meeting room. For the following hour or so, Gruden, still the coach on the time, gave what was intended to be a rousing speech about teamwork, peppering his message with football metaphors as he paced across the room and asked the workers to get behind their latest boss, Ventrelle, in accordance with two former employees who were present.

But over the following 12 months, that “team” would proceed to unravel. Gruden was gone just three months after his speech, and within the immediate aftermath, employees got spontaneous bonuses, either $5,000 or a percentage of their salary, depending on their rank with the team. One former worker who received this bonus felt it was an effort by Davis to spice up morale — but there was more upheaval to come back.

Jaime Stratton, who ran human resources for 2 years, left in April. Employees were informed of her departure in an email that said only that she was “not” with the team. Jeremy Aguero, the team’s chief operations and analytics officer, resigned in May after just seven months.

Days later, it was Ventrelle’s turn to go. Davis’s public statement gave no reason for his firing. Ventrelle insisted to The Review-Journal that he had tried to handle the team’s problems with Davis, to no avail.

“When Mark was confronted about these issues he was dismissive and didn’t exhibit the warranted level of concern,” Ventrelle said.

Amid the turmoil, among the team’s top leadership roles have remained vacant.

Not less than one top executive has Davis’s ear, in accordance with former colleagues. Marcel Reece, who was a running back with the Raiders for seven seasons, was hired by the Raiders in late 2020 after retiring from playing in 2017 and spending time with the NFL Network as a football analyst.

Now, after lower than two years within the Raiders’ front office, he’s listed second on the club’s organizational chart — right under Davis — following a recent promotion from senior adviser to chief people officer.

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