The National Football League (NFL) — seemingly still in its constant, self-imposed competition with itself to see exactly how terrible it can be — might have just outdone itself once again.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, a new lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Films — an arm of the league that functions as both a production studio and content archive — alleges that the film studio, and thus the league, keeps a massive, carefully cataloged database of lewd shots of women fans and cheerleaders that the NFL's cameras capture at games.

The suit, an employment discrimination complaint filed by former NFL Films human resources temp Victoria Russell, says "that NFL Films had a database of timestamps on its footage with descriptions including 'cheerleaders buttocks,' 'cheerleaders rear end,' 'female fan in bikini top,' 'naughty camera work,' 'close up of cheerleader's breasts; cleavage shot,' 'shot of endowed woman' and 'random woman, cleavage shot,'" the WSJ report claims.

It's a disturbing revelation, to say the absolute least. On its website, NFL Films claims that its archive is the "world's largest library of sports footage," which may very well be true; if this allegation is correct, there's no telling how much of that saved content is itemized and stored footage of women in comprising positions.

And the league, for its part, hasn't exactly denied that the database exists.

"Those frames are logged as 'sensitive' so that they can be removed from circulation, meaning they will not be accessible to employees whose job it is to locate footage for productions," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told the WSJ, adding that "a number of the descriptions that Russell alleged are used are inaccurate."

Further, McCarthy told the paper, the former employee didn't "have credentials for the logging system, nor did any aspect of her responsibilities involve accessing footage."

So, in other words, it sounds like a database of lewd footage does exist, but McCarthy's claiming it isn't that specific about what's in each clip, and that the employee shouldn't have been looking at it in the first place. Got it.

While there might some merit to flagging a specific frame as inappropriate as a means of keeping it off the air, it's unclear why any of these clips would have to be marked as anything other than "sensitive" or "inappropriate." Whether there were three different subcategories of lewd content or twenty, that degree of documentation seems unnecessary and inappropriate. Indeed, Russell's suit reportedly alleges that she first stumbled across the database in question after discovering, during a 2018 audit of the NFL's HR files, a "chat room log tracking timestamps on NFL footage and linking the timestamps to sexualized and offensive descriptions of women captured on that footage."

"The commentary associated with the timestamps," the suit continues, per the WSJ, "included approximately 14 pages of sexually degrading remarks."

And that was back in 2018. If true, there's no telling how many degrading remarks have been racked up in league chatrooms since. After all, this is the NFL we're talking about, a corporate body that's historically made it quite clear that violence, abuse, or otherwise physical or emotional harm against women doesn't ever warrant much more than a slap on the wrist.

And elsewhere, the database is a disturbing example of what's possible in an increasingly heavily-documented world. This isn't just an alleged case of institutionalized voyeurism, though the league certainly knows a thing or two about Peeping Toms. It's also a staggering example of the lived reality of a surveillance-heavy ecosystem where corporate bodies as massive as the NFL are saving and storing invasive content of specific individuals, with which that body can effectively do as it pleases.

It's gross and invasive, yes, but also a very real privacy concern.

To wit, a House Committee report from 2022 confirmed a Washington Post investigation from 2020 alleging that Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Commanders, had received video compilations of this exact type of compromising "outtake" content of the team's cheerleaders — compiled for him by Washington's own video production staff way back in 2010s.

In other words, institutionalized objectification is colliding with some of our deepest privacy fears — and surveillance tech is getting stronger all the time.

READ MORE: Lawsuit Alleges NFL Films Catalogs Lewd Shots of Women at Games in Database [The Wall Street Journal]

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