Report details Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill’s workplace culture
Oct 12, 2023, 12:57 PM
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
A report published on Thursday by The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler details a workplace culture at the Arizona Cardinals centered around a fear of owner Michael Bidwill, a slow response to an employee survey and “unwritten rules” that targeted women.
Kahler spoke to “more than a dozen current and former employees” for the story.
Bidwill issued a statement to The Athletic in response to the allegations:
“As I have said personally to every member of the Cardinals organization, I certainly have room to grow and with the benefit of hindsight, would have done some things differently over the years. I also know that my direct approach doesn’t always land well, and I’m working on that. I have always been driven by the desire to learn and improve and more importantly, to use those lessons in building the best organization possible. Over the last several years, we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and build a stronger community. We are a better and more inclusive organization today than we were yesterday and I’m extremely excited about what we can be tomorrow.”
Many of the allegations came from women, who felt they were treated differently than men.
For example, former and current employees detailed being told by supervisors that they should not fraternize with male members of the football staff. Employees cited the construction of a tall cubicle wall constructed in a second-floor space where most of the employees were women. They believed it was because the location was along a hallway used by football staffers, who would stop and talk to the business employees.
One day, a coach stopped to chat for longer than usual. Shortly thereafter, one employee said, a director told her they’d be putting up a wall to “cut down on hallway traffic.”
The wall ordeal contributed to a feeling some women had that they were constantly under watch, and that feeling made some modify their behavior.
A former employee told The Athletic that a player sat next to her and had a talk during a flight to a road game. A male coworker later told her she should avoid talking to players.
Multiple women said that while male staffers were allowed to use the team’s weight room if players were not in the building, women were “told directly” that they could not. They were also advised to avoid using a staircase to the weight room, according to one employee.
According to the story, the Cardinals until the 2022 season did not allow female members employed by the team to enter the locker room, including media operations workers. Per The Athletic:
A Cardinals spokesperson said the team intended to change that policy in 2020, but that COVID restrictions meant the locker room was closed to all media in 2020 and 2021.
There were multiple anonymous women who said there was also an unwritten dress code when working near the football staff and players.
Bidwill’s temper was cited in the story as well.
In one instance, he allegedly yelled at a new hire for walking too slowly. Employees spoke of tip-toeing around his office.
Two former employees, COO Ron Minegar and vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough, cited the fear in the building and toxic workplace culture created by Bidwill.
Minegar referenced the culture in a letter sent directly to Bidwill as he was departing his position. McDonough did so in an arbitration case as he’s taken Bidwill and the Cardinals to court, with accusations of cheating, discrimination and harassment.
And then there’s the 2019 survey of employees.
Many who took the survey cited Bidwill for creating a culture on edge. The Cardinals “didn’t have a dedicated director of human resources” at the time of the survey, making employees nervous of how Bidwill would respond to their honesty.
“People tore Michael Bidwill to shreds,” said a former employee with more than five years of experience with the team.
The Cardinals have said they took the survey seriously. But it wasn’t until 2021 that Arizona hired a Chief People Officer. Kelly Jones was hired in February of that year but left before being replaced in July 2021 by Shaun Mayo, who is still in charge. Jones did not disclose to Kahler why he left the job so quickly.
Mayo this April sent an internal memo to staffers about taking the corrective steps, including hiring an independent consultant to assess the “team policies and culture.”
The team held “listening sessions” and, according to The Athletic, followed up with a second round of those.