15 women accuse former Redskins employees of sexual harassment, abuse
Dan Snyder hires law firm to review workplace misconduct allegations
On Thursday evening, The Washington Post detailed the experiences of 15 former female Washington Redskins employees who said they were sexually harassed and verbally abused during their time with the Ashburn-based team. And on Thursday afternoon, the Associated Press first reported that Redskins owner Dan Snyder had hired a Washington, D.C.-based law firm to review the team’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct.
The specifics of the workplace misconduct have yet to be confirmed. The hiring of Wilkinson Walsh LLP, founded by Beth Wilkinson, was announced Thursday afternoon amid rumors trending on social media and on sports news sites that The Washington Post was going to publish exposé about Snyder (who purchased the NFL team in 1999 from Jack Kent Cooke’s estate for $800 million) and the team.
In a statement published in The Washington Post, the team said: “The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously. … While we do not speak to specific employee situations publicly, when new allegations of conduct are brought forward that are contrary to these policies, we address them promptly.”
Snyder himself isn’t directly accused of any misconduct, but nearly all accounts from former female employees mentioned in the article happened during the time he has owned the team. On Friday, Snyder, whom the Post said declined to be interviewed for the story about the alleged harassment, issued a statement to the Post saying such behavior “has no place in our franchise or society,” adding that he is committed “to setting a new culture and standard for our team.”
The National Football League team has operated with a revolving door for months. Larry Michael, who for 16 years was the voice of the team as the play-by-play announcer on radio broadcasts suddenly announced his retirement on Wednesday. The team declined to comment about Michael’s retirement. Director of Pro Personnel Alex Santos and Assistant Director of Pro Personnel Richard Mann II were fired the weekend of July 11. In December and early January, longtime team president Bruce Allen was fired and head athletic trainer Larry Hess, who had been with the organization for 17 years, were also let go.
Among the men accused of harassment and verbal abuse in The Washington Post article are Michael, Santos and Mann, each of whom reporters say were “members of Snyder’s inner circle and two longtime members of the personnel department.”
Female employees cried over former Chief Operating Officer Mitch Gershman’s tirades, Emily Applegate, a former Redskins employee, told The Washington Post. She recalled him calling her ‘f—–g stupid’ and then requesting she wear a tight dress for a meeting with clients, ‘so the men in the room have something to look at.'” Applegate was the only former employee to speak without anonymity, as most cited fear of retaliation for violating nondisclosure agreements.
“While Applegate and others did not accuse Snyder of acting improperly with women, they blamed him for an understaffed human resources department and what they viewed as a sophomoric culture of verbal abuse among top executives that they believed played a role in how those executives treated their employees,” according to The Washington Post article.
Several of the accusers also charged that the Redskins training camp, located in Richmond, was a “hotbed of improper activity,” and say they were told to avoid Richmond bar and restaurant The Tobacco Company, which was frequented by team officials.
“I was propositioned basically every day at training camp,” one female employee who worked for the team in the mid-2010s for several years told The Washington Post. “The overtures came in the form of a whispered invitation from one coach at The Tobacco Company to his hotel room, she said, as well as emails and text messages from other male staffers, also disclosing their room numbers and offering invitations for late-night visits,” according to The Washington Post.
Joe Yasharoff, MyMCMedia director of content and University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism professor, on Wednesday had tweeted: “Not meant to be cryptic (apologies if it comes across that way): Dan Snyder is going to be in trouble once the story comes out. Big trouble. Possibly no choice but to sell-the-team trouble. The story HAS to drop Thursday. Too much is starting to trickle out. See you tomorrow.”
Not meant to be cryptic (apologies if it comes across that way): Dan Snyder is going to be in trouble once the story comes out. Big trouble. Possibly no choice but to sell-the-team trouble. The story HAS to drop Thursday. Too much is starting to trickle out. See you tomorrow.
— Joe Yasharoff (@JYash) July 16, 2020
Before the subject of The Washington Post article had been known, some postulated that it could be related to sexual misconduct allegations.
In 2018, The New York Times reported that during a 2013 trip to Costa Rica, Washington Redskins cheerleaders’ passports were collected upon arrival at the resort, leaving them without any formal identification. Some cheerleaders were also required to be topless during a photoshoot, to which spectators (all men) had been invited — which The New York Times had reported were team sponsors and FedExField suite holders. Becca Winkert, a D.C.-area reporter who covers the Washington Wizards, reminded followers of the 2018 reporting.
Whatever comes out of these Dan Snyder rumors, it shouldn’t be a complete shock.
This story about the maltreatment of the cheerleaders came out two years ago. I would imagine anything else is just the next step up. https://t.co/4n4kdmbZQ5
— Becca Winkert (@BeccaMVP) July 16, 2020
The team announced on Monday that it would retire the Redskins name and logo after weeks of discussion over what many see as a discriminatory and derogatory name against Native Americans. Snyder, however, had long denied that he would ever change the name of the team.
“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder told USA Today in 2013. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means. … We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Since the inception of the Redskins name more than 88 years ago, Native Americans and other advocacy groups have pushed for a name change, citing that “redskin” is a derogatory term. The founder and original owner of the Redskins, George Preston Marshall, was in the early 1960s forced to racially integrate his franchise — making him one of the last NFL franchise owners to do so.
On July 2, the team’s stadium sponsor, FedEx, sent a private letter to the football franchise stating that FedEx would remove its signage from the stadium after its 2020 season unless the team changed its name, The Washington Post first reported. The shipping giant signed a $205 million deal for stadium naming rights in 1999 and it isn’t set to expire until 2025.
The most recent public statement from the Redskins was published on Monday, announcing the retirement of the team name and logo.
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) July 13, 2020
Despite a losing streak and name controversy, The Washington Redskins in 2019 had the seventh-highest NFL team valuation at $3.4 billion, according to Forbes.