The NFL organization in Washington is under scrutiny for allegations of sexual harassment.
A total of 15 former Washington employees tell Will Hobson and Liz Clarke of The Washington Post that they have been sexually harassed during their time with the club.
Fourteen of the 15 women requested to be anonymous with one exception, Emily Applegate. Many of the women had non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking. According to The Post’s report, the Washington football organization declined requests that would have released the female employees from their agreements so they couldn’t speak on the record without fear of legal ramifications.
From The Post’s reporting:
The allegations raised by Applegate and others — running from 2006 to 2019 — span most of (Dan) Snyder’s tenure as owner and fall into two categories: unwelcome overtures or comments of a sexual nature, and exhortations to wear revealing clothing and flirt with clients to close sales deals.
Applegate, who was a marketing coordinator, worked with the franchise for one year and left in 2015.
“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate told The Post. “And we all tolerated it, because we knew if we complained — and they reminded us of this — there were 1,000 people out there who would take our job in a heartbeat.”
As the pair of reporters at The Post explains, many women were faced with the decision to either carry on with business as usual or short-circuit their careers.
For many women, their jobs with the team were their first out of college. Several expressed a sense of shame, and said they realized they had accepted behavior years ago they now realize was inappropriate, such as an unwanted shoulder rub or a compliment about their legs.
Senior vice president of content and voice of the team Larry Michael, former director of pro personnel Alex Santos, former assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II, former president of business operations Dennis Greene, and former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman are accused of wrongdoing.
Many of the men declined to comment, though Gershman, whom Applegate claims berated her while making compliments about her body, denied the claims against him.
“I barely even remember who she is,” Gershman said of Applegate. “I thought the Redskins was a great place to work … I would apologize to anyone who thought that I was verbally abusive.”
Three of the men who are accused of inappropriate behavior have recently departed: Michael retired, while Santos and Mann were fired.
Neither owner Dan Synder, who declined The Post’s request for an interview, nor former team president Bruce Allen has been accused of inappropriate behavior. However, Applegate believes Allen knew what was going on.
“I would assume Bruce [Allen] knew, because he sat 30 feet away from me … and saw me sobbing at my desk several times every week,” Applegate said.
Washington Under Official Review
The franchise has hired Washington attorney Beth Wilkinson to review the organization’s protocols.
“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,” the team said in a statement to the newspaper.
The review was announced prior to The Washington Post article being released, though speculation of this barrel of incriminating news spread throughout the week and several former players, including Josh Norman, were not surprised that the organization was under fire, as Pro Football Action relayed.
One former team employee described the atmosphere within the organization as toxic. The onboarding process to become an employee is brief and the process of reporting items to HR is omitted. Newly hired women are left to figure it out themselves or learn from veteran female employees, as The Post explains.
Former women employees said the first few weeks at Redskins Park also often came with an informal, but invaluable, orientation administered privately by veteran female employees who warned them to avoid certain people and places, such as the staircase near the entrance to team headquarters.
Lined at the top with transparent plexiglass, the stairs descend from the lobby to the locker room and training area, and someone standing at the bottom can look up the skirt of a woman standing at the top.
Training camp in Richmond was deemed a “hotbed of improper activity,” according to several women speaking with The Post. Younger females were encouraged to stay away from a local bar and restaurant (The Tabacco Company) that was frequently visited by executives of the team.
“I was propositioned basically every day at training camp,” said one female employee who worked for the team in the mid-2010s for several years.
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.
Past History of Unprofessional Behavior
Back in 2018, there were reports of unacceptable protocols by the franchise when the team took their cheerleaders to Costa Rica for a photo shoot.
There was a red flag immediately upon arrival. The team collected the cheerleaders’ passports, which in many cases was the only identification the women had. According to Juliet Macur of The New York Times, many of the women said they were required to be topless for shoots even though the calendar would not show nudity.
The team reportedly allowed a group of sponsors and suite holders (all men) to access the photoshoot and get up close to the cheerleaders. At the conclusion of one of the 14-hour days, the women were told that there was more work to be done, as Macur detailed.
They had a special assignment for the night. Some of the male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” the director told them. Several of them began to cry.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one of the cheerleaders said. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
Sex was not involved in the arrangements, though Macur wrote that many of the cheerleaders were uncomfortable with everything that went on.
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