A former cheerleader and team marketing manager brought a new allegation against Dan Snyder, the long-time owner of the Washington Football Team.
Tiffani Johnston worked for the team from 2008 to 2008 and shared her story at a Capitol Hill roundtable about toxic workplace culture. He placed his hand under her table, and then pushed her toward his limousine, pushing her towards his lower back and asking her to join him.
Johnston explained to lawmakers that Dan Snyder had removed his hand from mine and stopped pushing me towards the limo because his attorney intervened. Johnston, then 24, said that a senior colleague told her not to report the incident.
The roundtable was hosted by the House Oversight Committee and included five other ex-employees of Washington Football Team. All participants described a workplace that was rife with sexual harassment and verbal abuse, with high-ranking executives taking part and no human resource department.
Rachel Engleson, a former director of client relations and marketing, said that she can’t remember a time when she didn’t fear or experience sexual harassment. She began her career as an intern with the team. “It was just part of the culture, and an unavoidable right of passage for a woman who worked there.
Melanie Coburn, a former employee who was both a cheerleader as well as in marketing, shared her story of a work trip she took to Aspen, Colorado. There, a colleague was “hazed” to drink despite having been a recovering addict. After that, Snyder invited prostitutes to his house.
She said that the culture and environment of those offices was “deplorable”, evoking a frat party led by a billionaire with no boundaries.
NPR was sent a statement by Dan Snyder in which he apologized for misconduct committed “at the Team”. He also pointed out the work done by the team to overhaul its policies, procedures, and personnel. Snyder also noted “vast improvements in Team culture during the past 18-months.”
He called the accusations against him today “outright lies.”
He stated that he had “unambiguously denied” having been involved in such conduct at any time or with respect to any individual.
2020: Sexual harassment allegations were made
Some former employees shared their accounts publically before. The Washington Post published the first in a series of exposes that featured 15 women who claimed they were subject to sexual harassment while working on the team. Women claimed that they were subject to insensitive comments about their bodies, clothing, and unwanted advances. They also complained of inappropriate touching from senior executives. The second story was about a lewd internal video that was made from photos taken by cheerleaders.
The Washington Post reports that the team only had one full-time HR staffer before 2019, and that there was no reporting process for harassment.
Another shocking story was published in 2020. The Washington Post reported in 2009 that Snyder had been sued for sexual harassment by an ex-employee. The settlement was worth $1.6 million. Snyder did not admit any wrongdoing.
A $10 million fine was imposed after an NFL investigation.
After the July 2020 Washington Post story, the Washington Football Team began an investigation into their toxic work culture. The NFL took control of the investigation at the end of August. On July 1, 2021, a summary of its findings was released by the league. It cited bullying, intimidation, and a lack of respect in an “highly unprofessional” environment. The investigation revealed that owners and senior managers paid very little to the findings. Forbes estimated that the team was worth $4.2 billion. Forbes fined them $10 million.
There was no written report from the investigation. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, stated last October that the NFL wouldn’t release details that could shed light onto the extent of the problems. He said that it wanted to preserve the anonymity and privacy of all those who spoke out.
The ex-employees accused the NFL of covering up and demanded a complete report at the Capitol Hill roundtable.
Let’s be clear. “The people I know who participated in this investigation expected and wanted a report,” stated Engleson, former marketing director. “Transparency is essential, as accountability can only be achieved when there is transparency.”
Emily Applegate, a former marketing professional, ticket sales representative, and premium client services manager, called on Goodell to resign.
Applegate stated, “Beginning with new leadership at the top of NFL will create change throughout all 32 teams.”
The NFL did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
House Democrats call for transparency from NFL
The House Oversight Committee called for the NFL to release all those involved in the nondisclosure agreement allegations. It requested documents and communications gathered in the investigation, as well as its underlying findings.
At the roundtable today, Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, stated that “The WFT” and the NFL, two of the most prominent platforms in America should set a higher standard and not avoid accountability or cover up sexual harassment.
He stated, “This is not the end of holding the wealthy and powerful accountable, protecting women across America against workplace sexual harassment.”