NEW YORK - Jets owner Woody Johnson has been absent from the team since late 2017, serving as President Trump's ambassador to the United Kingdom. From the sound of several reports published Tuesday and Wednesday, he's exported the Jets' signature leadership abroad.
A New York Times story is mostly focused on Trump's corruption: According to the report, Trump asked Johnson to push for the British Open to be hosted by a Trump-owned course in Scotland, and Johnson did it despite the warnings of his staff.
The report also contains damning asides about Johnson's conduct as ambassador unrelated to The Open.
"Mr. Johnson's throwback style has been criticized as offensive," the Times writes. "There have been complaints that he complimented the appearances of female employees during staff meetings, and after interviewing a candidate ... he asked a colleague whether she was Jewish."
CNN's story is directly focused on Johnson, and echoes those claims. Multiple sources told CNN that Johnson complained about Black History Month, and said that the "real challenge" was that Black fathers left their families. He also asked if "a whole bunch of Black people," would be at a Black History Month event in 2018.
According to the report, Johnson also has a long track record of blithely discussing women's looks, often starting speeches by discussing how many attractive women were present.
"We are aware of the report and would refer you to the State Department," the NFL said in a statement. The State Department told CNN that Johnson is "a valued member of the team who has led Mission UK honorably and professionally ... We stand by Ambassador Johnson and look forward to him continuing to ensure our special relationship with the UK is strong."
The State Department and White House declined to comment to the New York Times.
The Jets have yet to publicly comment on the reports. Safety Jamal Adams tweeted the CNN report with "We need the RIGHT people at the top. Wrong is wrong!" (Adams is currently in a contractual dispute with the team.)
Johnson's brother Christopher has been the active owner while Woody has been working as ambassador, although Woody's term could end as early as this fall if Trump loses the election. Previously as ambassador, Johnson fired his deputy over telling a positive anecdote about Barack Obama and was ripped by British tabloids for taking a phone video of Queen Elizabeth while she was giving a speech.
Johnson caused a "mini-panic" within the Jets in 2017 by liking a racy Instagram post, a source told the Daily News. Johnson initially denied personally liking the post, but an internal Jets investigation found that Johnson did indeed do it, according to the source. The investigation found that Johnson had liked at least one other racy picture and the team scrubbed them from his account. While this happened on Johnson's personal account, Jets employees had been assigned to help manage it and promote team content.
In February 2018, Trump told Woody Johnson to ask the British government about having the British Open at Trump Turnberry, a Trump-owned golf course in Scotland. Johnson did so "a few weeks later," despite his deputy telling him not to. (The deputy, Lewis Lukens, who was fired over the Obama anecdote, declined to comment to the Times.) Turnberry had hosted The Open four times before Trump bought the course in 2014.
According to the reports, the incident kick-started a paper trail and an internal investigation of Johnson's office last fall. The report is finished but has not been published. At least one congressman has called for Johnson's resignation over the report. "If this article is true, then you need to resign," Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, said. "America has already suffered enough international embarrassment from enablers like you of Trump's corruption."
Trump has long attempted to steer government business to his hotels and golf courses, and frequently succeeded. Air Force crews spent $184,000 on unusual layovers at Turnberry from 2017 to 2019, staying there while refueling planes in Glasgow.
The British government does not select British Open sites, and the R&A, which runs the open, said the government had not brought up Trump's courses with them. Under Johnson's two-decade ownership, the Jets have made the playoffs six times, and not since 2010.
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