The NFL said it is ‘aware’ of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s alleged racist and sexist comments. Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The NFL, facing another controversy engulfing one of its team owners, declined to specify Wednesday what steps it will take, if any, following reports that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson attempted to use his position as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom to benefit President Donald Trump’s personal business interests and that Johnson made racist and sexist comments to staff members.

“We are aware of the report and would refer you to the State Department,” the NFL said in a written statement.

Johnson was investigated by the State Department inspector general, according to a report by CNN.

Johnson, 73, was confirmed as ambassador in 2017 and turned over daily operations of the Jets to his brother Christopher. His great-grandfather was the co-founder of the pharmaceutical and medical giant Johnson & Johnson.

CNN reported that Johnson “made racist generalizations about Black men and questioned why the Black community celebrates Black History Month.” He also made what the network described “cringeworthy” remarks about women’s looks.

According to the CNN report, Johnson did not deny the specific allegations but praised his U.K. diplomatic team and said, “I greatly value the extraordinary work that each and every member of the team does to strengthen and deepen our vital alliance.” The White House declined to comment to CNN and referred the network to the State Department.

The New York Times reported that Johnson told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that Trump had asked him to see if the British government could assist in having the British Open golf tournament played at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. Johnson’s deputy advised against fulfilling Trump’s request, the Times reported, but Johnson “felt pressured to try” and reportedly raised the idea to David Mundell, Scotland’s secretary of state.

The British government said in a statement that Johnson “made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event,” the Times reported.

The NFL’s personal conduct policy applies to owners and would enable the league to discipline an owner with a fine or suspension if it believes that is warranted.

Jets safety Jamal Adams, in reaction to the CNN report, wrote on Twitter: “We need the RIGHT people at the top. Wrong is wrong!” Adams added: “Right is right. Wrong is wrong! If (you) don’t think this is wrong you’re part of the problem not the solution.”

The allegations against Johnson come on the heels of last week’s report by The Washington Post in which 15 female former employees of Washington’s NFL team accused former club officials of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. No women accused Snyder or former team president Bruce Allen of inappropriate behavior, but some expressed skepticism that Snyder and Allen were unaware of the behavior, and said that an environment of verbal abuse by top executives – as well as an understaffed human resources department – contributed to the workplace environment.

Snyder said Friday that the alleged behavior by former team officials “has no place in our franchise or society.”

Multiple people familiar with the league’s inner workings said last week that the NFL will seriously consider fining the team, pending the results of an investigation initiated by the franchise. But the league and fellow owners are not expected to take formal steps, those people said, to attempt to compel Daniel Snyder to sell team, barring further developments implicating Snyder directly.

League bylaws give the NFL and owners the right to attempt to force the sale of a team if an owner is deemed to have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league.

The NFL fined former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75 million in 2018 after investigating accusations of workplace misconduct against him, including sexually suggestive remarks toward women and directing a racial slur at a team employee. The league took over the investigation of the allegations against Richardson from the team, and Richardson chose to sell the franchise to David Tepper.

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