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Anonymous Cardinals’ employees describe working for Michael Bidwill as “walking on eggshells”

Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic provides a litany of examples of how the Cardinals’ owner mistreated in-house employees

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Syndication: Arizona Republic Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kalyn Kahler posted an article in The Athletic today title” The troubling Arizona Cardinals workplace culture that had some employees working in fear.” It is a compelling and disturbing read.

The troubling Arizona Cardinals workplace culture that had some employees ‘working in fear’ - The Athletic

On the heels of interviewing more than twelve “current and former employees with 100-plus combined years of experience with the team, most on the non-football side of the organization,” Kahler was able to provide a number of cases where Michael Bidwill made his employees uneasy. The employees consulted for this article were granted anonymity “out of their fear of retaliation from Bidwill, an attorney and former federal prosecutor.”

Given the anonymity and the opportunity, the employees said their peace.

Cases in point:

  • In 2019, Arizona Cardinals employees were given a survey that gave them the opportunity to express the positives and negatives of their day-to-day experiences working for the NFL team.
  • However, unlike many other NFL organizations, in 2019 the Cardinals did not have a director of human resources whom employees could turn to with grievances without the fear of being fired.
  • Therefore, Cardinals’ employees were fearful as to whether they should express their concerns. Yet, many of them felt compelled to take the risk —- and then they anxiously waited for the results.
  • More than year went by without a single word from Bidwill or any of the Cardinals’ executives about the survey. The consensus among employees was that the survey “disappeared into thin air.”
  • When former COO Ron Minegar left the organization in 2019, he wrote a long letter to Bidwill in which he warned that “a majority of our employees are working in fear.”
  • Kahler writes: Cardinals’ employees were subject to “unwritten policies about how women were to dress, interact with male football staffers and players and where they could and couldn’t go in the building.”
  • The environment was described by many of the employees as “outdated, archaic, constricted.”
  • Nursing mothers got the message to go pump near the women’s shower room or go find an empty conference room, if one was available.
  • In 2019, after his father’s death, Michael Bidwill chose not to fill the roles of Team President (his old position) and Chief Operating Officer. As a result, according to the employees, Bidwill created an oppressive “top-down” culture in which he would micro-manage all of the employees as he deemed fit.
  • When one woman was hired, she was told by her new office mates that she wouldn’t be “an official Cardinal” until Michael Bidwill yelled at her. Twenty minutes later, Bidwill yelled at the new employee in the hallway for “walking too slowly.”
  • The hall outside Bidwill’s second floor office was called “tiptoe alley.”
  • Word around the building would spread quickly whether “Michael’s mad today” so employees could avoid walking through “tiptoe alley”.
  • Bidwill would routinely yell at women to “stop talking so loud.”
  • Bidwill became upset when he saw one employee’s area code was 480 and not 602.
  • After former COO Ron Minegar was “arrested for extreme DUI” Bidwill publicly “scolded” Minegar during a MADD presentation in the team auditorium.
  • Some employees overheard Bidwill telling Minegar “I wanted to fire your ass” and “Don’t f—-ing do it again.”
  • Bidwill ordered a white plastic wall to be erected outside an office that was predominantly female. Again, Bidwill made it clear that he did not want female employees conversing with coaches or players. In fact, on one flight back to Arizona from an away game, a player chose to sit next to one of the female employees —- and after they had a nice conversation, the woman was told to never let a player sit down next to her again.
  • Players often sat next to male employees. But sitting next to a female employee was off limits.
  • Not only was the white plastic wall designed to keep the female employees confined and out of view, one female employee said that she had to take a less direct route to the lady’s room, because the most direct route was through the hall where the coaches’ offices were.
  • Was it a coincidence that the white plastic wall was put up just a couple of days after Bidwill chastised a female employee for talking too long in the hallway to one of Bruce Arians’ coaches?
  • Until 2020, male employees were told they could use the weight room when it was vacant, but female employees were discouraged from even walking down the stairs that led to the weight room. After some females complained about not being given the opportunity to use the weight room, the Cardinals no longer gave any of the non-football staff access to the weight room. Instead, they gave the employees the opportunity to purchase their own memberships (at a discount) to a local gym.
  • While female reporters have been allowed inside the players’ locker room at the designated times, up until last season, the Cardinals’ female employees, including members of the Cardinals’ own media team, were denied access. If in-house female media members wanted interviews with certain players, the players had to be ushered outside the locker room to meet with them.
  • There were unwritten dress code policies for women, which basically advised them to keep their shoulders and legs covered, so as to avoid “distractions.” Women employees felt awkwardly and uncomfortably obliged to inform new female hires of the unwritten code.
  • Kayln Kahler also alluded briefly to Michael Bidwill’s handling of the burner phone situation involving Steve Keim and Steve Wilks and the allegations of workplace misconduct that were filed to the NFL front office by for team executive Terry McDonough.
  • When Bidwill finally hired a Chief Police Officer in 2021 who was to oversee human resources and be a liaison between the executives and the staffers, the organization sent out a press release to announce the hiring of Kelly Jones. However, very mysteriously, about two months into the job, Jones was suddenly absent without any explanation. To this day, Kelly Jones hasn’t listed his two-month tenure with the Cardinals on his C.V.
  • One former employee said that it was all too common to see employees disappear without any explanation.

What Kayln Kahler could have cited, in my opinion, were the personal attacks Bidwill and his lawyer delivered to Terry McDonough, after McDonough’s allegations went public.

Furthermore, in my opinion, Bidwill’s decision to fire Kliff Kingsbury during the last episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks so that he could get HBO to film his “it’s a move we had to make” press conference —- and then capture the scene where Kliff announced to a mere four players sitting in the back of the auditorium that he had just received the word of his firing —- was unconscionable and classless.

The Good News? (Decide for yourself)

Michael Bidwill’s own words after reading this article:

As I have said personally to every member of the Cardinals organization, I certainly have room to grow and with the benefit of hindsight, would have done some things differently over the years. I also know that my direct approach doesn’t always land well, and I’m working on that. I have always been driven by the desire to learn and improve and more importantly, to use those lessons in building the best organization possible. Over the last several years, we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and build a stronger community. We are a better and more inclusive organization today than we were yesterday and I’m extremely excited about what we can be tomorrow.”

From Sean Mayo, Kelly Jones’ successor as Chief Police Officer with regard to the unwritten rules regarding dress codes, restricted areas, issues of workplace decorum, etc:

“These ‘unwritten rules’ are largely urban myths and old news. They were unknown to senior leaders until we received employee feedback from the 2019 survey. In most, if not all cases, they were based on perception – or misperception – rather than any actual policy. But the feedback was valuable. We’ve addressed them over the last several years and now have clarity across the organization.”

Kayln Kahler’s summary of some of the workplace environment improvements that Michael Bidwill and Shaun Mayo have been trying to make:

“A few months later, the Cardinals hired Mayo, who reports directly to Bidwill. Soon after, Mayo organized small-group listening sessions, a dedicated time and space for employees to meet him and air their grievances. Recently, the team held another round of listening sessions, hired an independent consulting firm to conduct its own workplace review and organized a pay review study to make sure employees were compensated on par with other teams. The organization also relaxed its work-from-home policies, instituted shorter hours for summer Fridays and brought in food trucks. The Cardinals hosted an open house at the facility for employees’ families, and handed out plaques to some employees recognizing their years of service. The team also arranged for the office staff to travel to this weekend’s game in Los Angeles versus the Rams, a new perk.”

Wake-Up Calls:

  • Ron Minegar’s resignation letter.
  • Terry McDonough’s workplace misconduct grievance to the NFL.
  • The NFLP Team Workplace Conditions per the input of the players.
  • Kalyn Kahler’s article today in The Athletic.

Do you believe that Michael Bidwill would have made the kinds of changes without these wake-up calls?


Do you believe that Michael Bidwill would have made the kinds of changes without these wake-up calls?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    (78 votes)
  • 18%
    No, not this quickly
    (48 votes)
  • 47%
    Probably not
    (126 votes)
  • 2%
    Eventually on his own timeline, yes
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    (5 votes)
263 votes total Vote Now

What say you?

I have a number of thoughts —- but I would like to ponder yours before I chime in.