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Mark Davis says Raiders making changes to address claims of hostile work culture

Updated July 8, 2022 - 8:51 am

Raiders owner Mark Davis said Thursday the team investigated reported claims of a hostile work environment within the organization’s front office and is making the necessary changes.

Investigative reports, including a June 26 story in the Review-Journal on the Raiders’ work culture, raised issues that Davis said he and the team took seriously. Davis commented on those published reports for the first time Thursday.

“The culture of this organization for me is so important,” Davis said. “Since the articles that came out, not only in the New York Times, but the RJ … I take those very seriously. So we did an investigation into all those things and we listened to the people who work in the organization and I believe we started to make those changes that are necessary to get the culture back to where we feel we can all be positive.”

Part of those changes include the hiring of Sandra Douglass Morgan on Thursday as team president and Heather DeSanto as vice president of human resources. Both have vast experience in the Las Vegas Valley.

Davis noted that Morgan, who was introduced as the first Black female team president in NFL history, will play a large role in reinvigorating the organization.

“She understands that it is the people first and that’s the kind of culture that we’re going to build,” Davis said. “She’s looking forward to meeting everybody in the organization, one-on-one, to get to know them and get their feedback and start building that family culture again.”

DeSanto replaces former human resources director Jaime Stratton, who was fired in April. DeSanto is a longtime human resources professional, most recently serving as vice president of human resources at the Venetian.

The Review-Journal investigation revealed allegations of a hostile workplace from former employees, with some women alleging a troubling pattern of harassment, forced demotions and unequal treatment.

Last year, former HR employee Nicole Adams filed a complaint against the Raiders with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Adams, who is Black, accused the team in the complaint of discriminating against her because of her race and retaliating against her after she reported concerns about pay disparity and unequal treatment.

“I think it’s a wonderful step that MD (Mark Davis) is taking towards trying to improve the team’s image, but hiring the first ever Black female president doesn’t necessarily mean that things will change,” Adams said in a text message Thursday. “I just hope that the new president is the person who is truly going to improve the culture of the team, and not just a figurehead put in place to take the heat off of them.”

People who have worked closely with Morgan said she’s the right person for the job.

“If there are problems, she will absolutely deal with them,” said Brin Gibson, current chairman of state Gaming Control Board.

John Moran, former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, agreed: “She does what is right, and she can fix anything they need.”

Davis and the Raiders also have had to contend with several high-ranking executives leaving the organization within a 10-month span. That included former president Marc Badain and former interim president Dan Ventrelle, who claimed he was fired in retaliation for alerting the NFL to issues within the Raiders’ workplace.

“We were beginning to be more corporate in the organization where a title was more important than the person that was wearing the title,” Davis said. “It got to the point where people could be replaceable. ‘We can get an SVP for this anywhere.’ That’s never been what the Raiders’ organization has been about. It’s always been about the people first and family.”

Davis said relocating to Las Vegas amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic played a role in the work environment, affecting those moving between Northern California and Southern Nevada. He also said the inability to work in an office environment immediately due to safety precautions had an impact.

“We never really got to start the Las Vegas Raiders with a culture that had momentum,” Davis said.

Morgan said she was well aware there were reported issues within the Raiders organization when she was hired and is ready to tackle them immediately.

“When Mark and I first discussed this opportunity, I was honored and humbled, but I also had a lot of questions,” Morgan said Thursday during her introductory news conference. “It’s no secret that this organization has faced some recent challenges, but I want to be clear: I am not here to sweep anything under the rug or avoid problems or concerns that need to be addressed.

“The fact is I have accepted this role because I believe in the promise of the Raiders, I believe in the future of the Raiders, and I believe in this organization’s tenants of community, integrity, and most of all, commitment to excellence.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Staff writers Briana Erickson and Jim Barnes contributed to this report.

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