New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was under investigation by a State Department watchdog following allegations that he made racist and sexist comments while serving as an ambassador to the United Kingdom and sought to have the Open Championship played at a golf resort owned by President Donald Trump, according to a CNN report on Wednesday.
Among the allegations are that Johnson made racist comments about Black men and questioned the purpose of Black History Month. He allegedly argued that Black fathers don’t remain with their families, calling that the “real challenge.”
CNN reported that Johnson would comment on women’s appearances at the embassy and public events and that he said he preferred working with women because they are cheaper and work harder. Johnson reportedly would hold gatherings at a men’s-only club, preventing female diplomats from attending, before he was told by another diplomat to stop the practice.
The New York Times first reported Tuesday that Johnson told colleagues in February 2018 that Trump asked him to try to secure an Open Championship at the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland. The newspaper reported that Johnson raised the issue with the secretary of state for Scotland, but no Opens have been scheduled at the president’s resort.
A source familiar with the inquiry told CNN that investigators focused on Johnson’s efforts to use his position to influence business matters for Trump.
Johnson was confirmed as an ambassador in August 2017. His term is set to end later this year.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Johnson said he has “followed the ethical rules and requirements of my office at all times.”
“These false claims of insensitive remarks about race and gender are totally inconsistent with my longstanding record and values,” he wrote.
The Jets said they are aware of the allegations against Johnson and noted his denial of them.
“Since the Johnson family became owners of the New York Jets, the organization has consistently and actively supported, engaged and encouraged the development of many different social justice, diversity, women’s, and inclusion initiatives,” the team said in a statement. “One of our fundamental principles is treating employees, players, coaches and fans with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, color, religion, or gender. These principles have been established by the Johnson family, which Woody implemented in our organization over the past 20 years.”
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that they “stand by Ambassador Johnson and look forward to him continuing to ensure our special relationship with the U.K. is strong.” The White House did not comment on the allegations when asked by the network.
The NFL is aware of the CNN report, and it referred questions to the State Department, a league spokesman said.
Jets safety Jamal Adams — who, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, is seeking a trade because of frustration with his contract negotiations — responded to the CNN report on Twitter, saying, “We need the RIGHT people at the top. Wrong is wrong!”
Right is right. Wrong is wrong!
If u don’t think this is wrong you’re part of the problem not the solution.
— Jamal Adams (@Prez) July 22, 2020
Johnson, who purchased the team in 2000 for $635 million, has not played an active role with the Jets since taking the ambassadorship. His younger brother, Christopher Johnson, who is a minority owner, has assumed the role of chairman and CEO of the Jets and has been handling the day-to-day operations of the team.
ESPN’s Rich Cimini contributed to this report.