A woman accusing several current and former employees of the NFL Network of sexual harassment and assault says in her lawsuit that she complained to the company’s director of on air talent, Marc Watts, who told her “it’s part of the job when you look the way you do.”
Watts is among several men accused in the lawsuit filed by former NFL Network wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor. The lawsuit alleges sexual misconduct by several former NFL players who became analysts for the network, including former employees Donovan McNabb, Warren Sapp and Eric Davis, and current analysts Heath Evans, Ike Taylor and Marshall Faulk, who have been suspended by the network. Former executive Eric Weinberger is also accused in the lawsuit, which was filed in October in Los Angeles Superior Court and amended to add the names of her alleged harassers on Monday.
Watts, who left the NFL Network in 2015 and now runs Marc’d Academy: The Broadcasting Training Institute in Culver City, California, could not be reached for comment.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cantor Says Watts Asked About Her Sex Life, Including Whether the On-Air Talent Hit on Her, Saying ‘I Bet They All Want to Sleep With You’
Cantor began working for the NFL Network in Culver City in 2006. Her job included building a closet of clothes for the on-air talent. In her lawsuit, she claims that she was wrongfully fired in 2016 after she was accused of stealing clothes. She says in the lawsuit that she has video proof that she did not steal the clothes. The lawsuit accuses NFL Enterprises LP, the NFL Network’s parent company, and her supervisor, Jessica Lee, of age and sex discrimination, sexual harassment and allowing a hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination, among several violations of California civil law.
In the lawsuit she claims that she was subjected to “ongoing and continuing sexual harassment” by employees of the NFL. “They would touch her butt, breasts and point to their privates in front of her, make comments like, ‘I can’t handle your ass, it is so luscious,’ and send her pictures while in their underwear, in the shower or naked.” Her attorney says “nothing was done in response to (her) complaints. Instead, NFL made it more difficult for (her) to do her job by increasing her work load and cutting her hours.”
Cantor said in her lawsuit that among those she complained to was Marc Watts. She said she told him about the “various and numerous unwanted sexual advances from the NFL talent.” According to Cantor, Watts “did nothing and instead responded, ‘it’s part of the job when you look the way you do.”
Cantor also accuses Watts of participating in the sexual harassment by making “sexually inappropriate comments” about her body and asking “invasive and inappropriate questions about” her “sex life.”
Cantor said Watts asked her “how many of these guys (i.e. talent) hit on you?” according to the lawsuit. She also said he told her, “I bet they all want to sleep with you.”
Watts has not responded to requests for comment about the lawsuit and it is not clear if he has hired an attorney.
2. Watts Ran a Talent Agency & Worked as Reporter for CNN Before Joining the NFL Network in 2012
Marc Watts, 58, worked at the NFL Network from April 2012 to October 2015 as its director of On Air Media & Talent Development, according to his Linkedin profile.
Before joining the NFL Network, Watts had a career as an on-air journalist himself, including at CNN, and then worked as a talent agent and trainer for several years in the Chicago area. He was also briefly an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, teaching journalism, from 2001 to 2003.
Watts worked at CNN as a correspondent from 1993 to 1997, according to his biography on the network’s website. He spent time as a general assignment correspondent in CNN’s Los Angeles bureau and finished his career as a national political correspondent in the network’s Chicago bureau. He was one of CNN’s lead reporters during the coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial.
“Watts has reported on the devastating January 17, 1995 earthquake, from outside the courthouse during the jury deliberations and verdict in the Reginald Denny beating trial and from the hills around L.A. as fires raged destroying thousands of acres and hundreds of homes and buildings. He also reported extensively outside the Los Angeles county courthouse during the O.J. Simpson trial,” according to CNN.
Before working at CNN, Watts was a reporter at KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, KRIV-TV in Houston and KHOU-TV, also in Houston. He began his career as an associate producer at KING-TV in Seattle and also spent time working at WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV in Minnesota.
After leaving CNN, Watts founded Signature Media Group in Chicago, a “broadcast media talent agency.” He moved back to Los Angeles in 2009, becoming the vice president of PRO Sports Communications’ broadcast division, working as an “elite media trainer” for athletes and CEOs.
According to his Linkedin profile he, “taught sports & TV personalities how to utilize the media to their advantage. Coached them to be dynamic communicators and powerful speakers. Trained them how to transition from their playing days into the broadcast booth.”
3. He Left the NFL Network After 3 Years to Start a Broadcaster Training Academy
Marc Watts left the NFL Network in 2015 after three years. The circumstances of his departure were not immediately clear. He then founded Marc’d Academy, a broadcast training institute based in Culver City.
He says on his website, “He is America’s foremost TV Talent Maven. No one has sculpted more in-front-of-the-camera TV careers than Marc. He is the magic behind the scenes ‘go to’ guy for hundreds of on-air TV news and sports personalities. This elite TV talent coach doesn’t rely on published textbooks for any of his seminars or lessons. His Emmy award-winning career is the textbook.”
Watts helped former NFL quarterback Warren Moon transition from his Hall of Fame playing career to the broadcast booth, he told SportsPR.com.
“When he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006, I was seated in the front row in Canton, Ohio and tears streamed down my face. Not because he was the first Black QB ever inducted into the H.O.F. but because I was overcome with emotion listening to the power of his words and the strength of his presentation during his acceptance speech,” he said about Moon. “Those tears of joy reflect the reward I feel when people step out onto a stage and carry out the work that we’ve put in during a practice session. Every day, I get those rewards when I watch TV or listen in on the radio. I still feel like a small piece of me is on TV, on all the different networks, when I hear and watch the people I’ve trained across the media landscape.”
Moon is also facing sexual harassment claims. His former assistant, Wendy Haskell, filed a lawsuit recently against Moon accusing him of forcing her to sleep in the same bed as him on business trips, grabbing her crotch and drugging her. He has denied the claims, but has taken a leave of absence from his job as a radio broadcaster for Seattle Seahawks games.
4. He Graduated From the University of Washington in 1987 & Later Got His Master’s in Political Science from the University of Minnesota
Watts graduated from the University of Washington in 1987 with degrees in communications and psychology, according to his Linkedin profile. He worked for the student newspaper and radio station, was in a fraternity and “played a bit of football for the Dawgs,” according to his profile.
He later graduated from the University of Minnesota with a master’s degree in political science and government.
“How did I get to where I am? Eight Pillars: Education, Relationships, Communication Skills, Humility, Smart Choices, Good Health, Running My Own Race and Willingness to Challenge Status Quo. I am a former on-air broadcaster with CNN who has covered some of the biggest stories of our time. I’ve also worked as a media TV agent negotiating optimal contracts for on-air personalities. Then I worked in senior management at NFL Network, before launching my broadcast training academy,” he says on Athlete Network.com. “My unique media background has allowed me to offer these proprietary services which afford athletes the opportunity to utilize the media to their advantage during their playing days and then become part of it when they retire.”
5. Watts Was Married to Former Chicago TV Anchor Diann Burns
Watts was married to longtime Chicago TV anchor Diann Burns from 1995 until 2012, according to TimeOut Chicago. They were “once among Chicago’s highest-profile media couples,” according to the website. Together they have a son.
While they were married, Watts served as Burns’ agent and helped negotiate her five-year $10 million contract with CBS 2, according to Time Out. She left the station in 2008.
The couple also made headlines in 2006 when they sued the builder working on their Lincoln Park mansion, claiming the firm provided substandard work because they were black. The lawsuit was settled in 2009. They sold the home in 2011 for $4.525 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.