The NFL has fined the Washington Football Team $10 million and owner Dan Snyder will step away from day-to-day operations after an independent investigation into the organization’s workplace misconduct and allegations of sexual harassment against club employees.
The team was not stripped of any draft picks as part of the league’s discipline that was announced Thursday stemming from lawyer Beth Wilkinson’s investigation that began last summer.
The investigation revealed that ownership and senior officials paid little attention to sexual harassment and other workplace issues. NFL special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel described it as a culture of fear.
‘The culture at the club was very toxic and fell short of the NFL’s values and we hold ownership to a higher standard,’ Friel said.
Snyder says his wife Tanya will be in charge for the next ‘several months.’ Tanya Snyder was named co-CEO on Tuesday. Dan Snyder will ‘concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters,’ according to the NFL press release.
Janet Nova, the league’s deputy general counsel for media and business affairs, said Dan Snyder stepping away for that time was ‘voluntary’ and not a mandate. Tanya Snyder will represent Washington at all league functions.
The NFL has fined the Washington Football Team $10 million and owner Dan Snyder (left) is stepping away from day-to-day operations after an independent investigation into the organization’s workplace misconduct. Snyder says his wife Tanya (right) will be in charge for the next ‘several months.’ Tanya Snyder was named co-CEO on Tuesday. Dan Snyder will ‘concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters,’ according to the NFL press release.
The team was not stripped of any draft picks as part of the league’s discipline that was announced Thursday stemming from lawyer Beth Wilkinson’s investigation that began last summer. The investigation revealed that ownership and senior officials paid little attention to sexual harassment and other workplace issues. NFL special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel described it as a culture of fear. Wilkinson (pictured) was initially hired by the team before the NFL took over the investigation. Her firm has since been reporting to the league office
In a statement, attorneys for the 40 former employees who sued the franchise over sexual harassment and misconduct claims in 2020 accused the NFL of protecting Snyder.
‘In response to a year-long investigation in which more than 100 witnesses were interviewed, and which we believe substantiated our clients’ allegations of pervasive harassment, misogyny and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the NFL has chosen to protect owner Dan Snyder,’ read the statement from attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz.
‘Ignoring our requests that it make the report prepared by Beth Wilkinson public, the NFL has chosen instead to receive only an oral report of the findings and to fine owner Dan Snyder what amounts to pocket change.
‘This is truly outrageous, and is a slap in the face to the hundreds of women and former employees who came forward in good faith and at great personal risk to report a culture of abuse at all levels of the Team, including by Snyder himself. The NFL has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that it does not care about them or credit their experiences. Female fans, and fans of goodwill everywhere, take note.’
In his own statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thanked the witnesses for coming forward.
‘I want to thank the current and former employees who spoke to Beth and her team; they provided vital information that will help ensure that the workplace environment at the club continues to improve,’ Goodell said. ‘It is incredibly difficult to relive painful memories. I am grateful to everyone who courageously came forward.’
The original Washington Post report cited former employee Emily Applegate (pictured) and 14 mostly anonymous women, many of whom claimed they were left unsupported by an understaffed human resources department
Former Redskins cheerleader Tiffany Bacon Scourby claims Snyder suggested that she join his ‘close friend’ in a hotel room so they ‘could get to know each other’ back in 2004
The league says Wilkinson interviewed more than 150 people, including current and former employees. Friel said individual allegations were not made part of Wilkinson’s report because of confidentiality agreements requested by many people.
Wilkinson recommended establishing protocols for reporting harassment, a disciplinary action plan and regular training for employees. She also said the cheerleading team — which is now a co-ed dance team was part of several changes Washington has made over the past year — needed to be protected.
The league praised Snyder for hiring Ron Rivera as coach and Jason Wright as team president among those changes to improve the organization’s culture.
‘Over the past 18 months, Dan and Tanya have recognized the need for change and have undertaken important steps to make the workplace comfortable and dignified for all employees,’ Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. ‘Those changes, if sustained and built upon, should allow the club to achieve its goal of having a truly first-tier workplace.’
Snyder said in a statement he agrees with the commissioner’s decisions and is ‘committed to implementing his investigation’s important recommendations.’
‘I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of workplace that we had. It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realize the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue,’ Snyder said. ‘I know that as the owner I am ultimately responsible for the workplace.’
Redskins cheerleaders seen dancing as part of a 2004 event, where Scourby claims Snyder suggested she spend some time with a close friend of his in a nearby hotel room
In two separate Washington Post reports in the summer of 2020, no fewer than 25 women made sexual harassment or other hostile workplace claims against club employees, nearly all of whom departed before or immediately after the accusations were revealed.
The women say they endured unwelcome sexual advances, comments about their physical appearance, and verbal abuse from co-workers or male supervisors. One female employee said she was called ‘f***ing stupid’ and asked to wear a tight dress in a client meeting ‘so the men in the room have something to look at.’
The Post report cited former employee Emily Applegate and 14 mostly anonymous women, many of whom claimed they were left unsupported by an understaffed human resources department.
Snyder, himself, was accused of telling a team cheerleader named Tiffany Bacon Scourby in 2004 that she should go to a hotel room with a personal friend of his so the two could ‘get to know each other.’
He was also accused of warning the team’s cheerleading director to ensure the dancers are ‘skinny with big tits’ or he would ‘f***ing kill him.’
Snyder has denied both of these claims.
One club executive instructed employees to create a lewd behind-the-scenes video of partially nude cheerleaders at a 2008 calendar shoot, according to the latest wave of accusations against the embattled NFL franchise.
In July, Snyder hired Washington law firm Wilkinson Walsh LLP to review the team’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct. The NFL ultimately took over the investigation with Wilkinson reporting to the Commissioner’s office.
That investigation revealed a potentially relevant 2009 settlement, which Snyder has fought to keep private.
In an emergency motion reviewed by DailyMail.com that was filed in a Virginia federal court in December, Snyder’s attorneys declared that he intends to assert ‘privileges and privacy’ in the matter. The Washington Post was the first to report the motion, which revealed the 2009 settlement.
On July 17, Snyder issued a statement that said the story ‘strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team, a process that began with the hiring of Coach [Ron] Rivera earlier this year.’
Some of the 25 women said they decided to talk now because Snyder’s response angered them. A few of them, The Post said, pointed fingers at executives.
Several names from the previous report resurfaced in the second wave of allegations, including Alex Santos, who was fired as pro personnel director in 2020, Larry Michael, the team’s now-former radio play-by-play announcer, and former president of business operations Dennis Greene, who left during a previous cheerleader scandal in 2018 (see below).
Santos was accused of repeatedly asking out former team intern Shannon Slate in 2016, often commenting on her clothing and once telling her the dress she was wearing was ‘a little too short for me not to look at.’
When slate approached chief financial officer Stephen Choi to complain, he told the 22-year-old ‘this is a sports organization; men dominate it,’ Slate told The Post, adding that she was advised to avoid Santos or end her internship prematurely.
Previously Santos was accused of pinching a reporter, The Athletic’s Rhiannon Walker, and telling her she had an ‘a** like a wagon.’
Santos and Gershman declined to comment to the newspaper, and Greene did not respond to requests for a comment.
The latest Post report also said Michael ordered his staff to make a video for Snyder showing ‘lewd outtakes’ from the film shoot for the team’s 2008 cheerleader swimsuit calendar.
This was not the first time that former team cheerleaders have accused the club of condoning an inappropriate work atmosphere.
In 2018, The New York Times reported that the team trip to Costa Rica crossed professional boundaries, with some cheerleaders claiming they were forced to pose topless during a calendar shoot while an all-male group of sponsors and fans watched.
Greene is alleged to have sold access to those cheerleaders in 2013, and left the franchise in 2018 after the report was published.
Several alleged that nine cheerleaders were picked by certain sponsors to be their personal escorts that same night, and while they say sex was not a part of that assignment, they said they felt compelled to cooperate.
Coming off a 14-hour day, some of the exhausted cheerleaders reportedly began to cry upon learning about the ‘escort’ assignment.
According to the report, the cheerleaders felt the trip was mandatory, even though they were not being paid. The team did cover transportation, meals and lodging.
Some of the cheerleaders were left feeling ‘worthless and unprotected’ afterwards, claiming the Redskins were were ‘pimping [them] out.’
Former Redskins cheerleading captains Charo Bishop and Rachel Gill refuted those claims to NBC’s Today Show after the 2018 report was published.
CURRENT AND FORMER WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM EMPLOYEES ACCUSED OF MISCONDUCT OR NEGLIGENCE:
Former Washington Redskins director of pro personnel Alex Santos
Director of pro personnel Alex Santos: Six former employees and two reporters who covered the team told the Washington Post that Santos made inappropriate remarks to them about their appearances. He also asked them if they were interested in him romantically. In 2019, he allegedly pinched Rhiannon Walker, a reporter for The Athletic, and told her she had ‘an ass like a wagon.’ This resulted in an internal investigation. Another reporter, the Ringer’s Nora Princiotti, also accused Santos of harassing her. Santos, who declined to speak with The Post, was fired in July.
Team radio play-by-play announcer Larry Michael: Seven former employees told The Post that ‘the voice of the Washington Redskins’ frequently talked openly about female co-workers looks, often making sexually disparaging remarks. He was once caught on a ‘hot mic’ in 2018 discussing the looks of one intern, six sources told The Post. He is also accused of ordering employees to edit together a video of lewd behind-the-scenes outtakes from a 2008 calendar shoot. Michael, who declined to speak with The Post, retired after 16 seasons in July.
Former radio announcer Larry Michael (left) and former assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II (right)
Assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II: In a text message obtained by The Post, Mann told a female colleague that he and other men in the office debated whether she had plastic surgery on her breasts. He also warned another female coworker to expect an ‘inappropriate hug’ from him, adding, ‘don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else.’ Mann declined to speak with The Post after being fired in July.
Former president of business operations Dennis Greene
President of business operations Dennis Greene: Five former employees told The Post that Greene asked female sales staffers to wear revealing outfits and flirt with wealthy season ticket holders and suite holders. Greene worked for the club for 17 years until 2018, when it was revealed that he had sold access to team cheerleaders at a bikini photo shoot in Costa Rica as part of a ticket package. According to a New York Times investigation, the 2013 calendar shoot did not involve any sex, but team officials did worry the cheerleaders by taking their passports. Some cheerleaders say they were required to be topless, although the shoot did not include any nudity. After a 14-hour shoot one day, nine of the 36 cheerleaders were reportedly asked to escort suite holders to a local nightclub. Several of the women began to cry, according to the Times. Greene declined to comment and has not worked for the team since he resigned in 2018.
Chief operating officer Mitch Gershman: Former team employee Emily Applegate said he would routinely compliment her body while also regularly berating her for insignificant problems, like printer malfunctions. Her allegations were supported by two other female former employees. When contacted, Gershman told The Post, ‘I barely even remember who she is,’ adding that he ‘would apologize to anyone who thought I was verbally abusive.’ Gershman left the team in 2015.
Team president Bruce Allen: Although he is not accused of any misconduct, Applegate claims Allen must have known about the abuse she was receiving because ‘he sat 30 feet away from me… and saw me sobbing at my desk several times a week.’ The brother of former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen, Bruce Allen was fired after the 2019 season.
Majority owner Dan Snyder: A former cheerleader named Tiffany Bacon Scourby told the Washington Post Snyder suggested that she join his ‘close friend’ in a hotel room in 2004 so they ‘could get to know each other.’ The 55-year-old billionaire is also accused of belittling executives, according to three members of the executive staff. Specifically, he mocked Dennis Greene for being a college cheerleader, once allegedly ordering him to do cartwheels for his amusement. He’s reportedly quarreling with the team’s minority partners, who wish to unload their shares, but could likely get more if he were willing to sell too. Snyder has privately settled one sexual harassment allegation, according to The New York Times and Washington Post, and the league is currently conducting an investigation of the team. Snyder remains the team’s majority owner.
Neither team owner Dan Snyder (left) or recently fired team president Bruce Allen (right) are accused of any misconduct, but sources did tell The Post that they should have been aware about the workplace culture, and neither did enough to stop it