“It is Terrifying When You Are Up Against Billions of Dollars” Former Washington Football Employees Protest Snyder & NFL at FedExField

Photo Courtesy: Melanie Coburn

Former Washington Football Team video department employee Megan Imbert and former cheerleader Melanie Coburn joined with a host of supporters to protest outside ESPN’s Monday Night Football game between the Washington Football Team and the Seattle Seahawks at FedexField.

The women said the NFL lacks accountability and oversight and has not cooperated with members of Congress to release the findings of its investigation into the team’s workplace culture. While the duo denounced the NFL for a “lack of transparency,” they also said they want to help workplace culture evolve through their advocacy efforts.

Imbert said Monday night that she understands fans want to focus on football, and acknowledged that she is a fan as well. However, she refuses to give up her fight for full transparency from the league.

“This is what needs to happen in order for society to evolve. I’m not calling for cancel culture. I’m calling for the culture to evolve.”

Imbert told a slew of reporters outside the stadium that she believes momentum is building as people gain the courage to come forward about their experiences with the team.

She emphasized that the two women remain scared even as they push forward to demand the league release the report and hold Dan Snyder accountable.

“I am scared for my physical safety,” Imbert said in response to a reporter asking what she feared. “Dan Snyder has had private investigators involved here. It is terrifying when you are up against billions of dollars.”

The protest took place in the Redzone parking area prior to kickoff with the women wearing matching burgundy sweatshirts that said “Release the Report.”

Coburn said the two were slammed by media and fans and that it was “amazing interacting with the fans and feeling the support!”

The protest stems from multiple investigations into the Washington Football Team’s hostile workplace. Several women alleged sexual assault and harassment and several cheerleaders alleged that their private parts were filmed without their consent during team photo shoots and the videos subsequently distributed to team executives.

The results of the NFL’s investigations remain cloaked in darkness and many of the cheerleaders are now silenced by non-disclosure agreements following confidential settlements.

Coburn, a former cheerleader and the squad’s marketing director from 2001-2011, recently wrote an op-ed for USA Today, saying the lack of a public report on the investigation following allegations of sexual assault has made her and others feel “deflated” and “marginalized.” 

“We feel invisible. Deflated. Marginalized. Diminished. I gave 14 years of my life to the WFT, and I couldn’t even get a written report. Did you know the Wells Report was 243 pages? Two hundred and forty-three pages for deflated balls, but we have sexual harassment, assault, abuse over decades, and no written report? We’ve asked the NFL to meet and discuss the findings of the investigation and they have not agreed,” Coburn wrote.

The investigation into the Washington Football Team has gained national attention as a result of congressional inquiries.

Representatives on Capitol Hill got involved following the leak of offensive and racist emails from former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden, to former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen. 

Some of the emails allegedly included topless photos of women wearing only bikini bottoms. Following his resignation, Gruden filed suit against the NFL, blaming NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the leaks and alleging that he was the victim of a “soviet-style character assassination” by the league to distract from its “mishandling” of the WFT investigation.

The emails involving Gruden—which included racist, misogynistic and homophobic commentary—were part of the 650,000 emails that investigators reviewed later on.

The initial investigation concluded in July, with a $10 million fine against the team and was reopened by Goodell in order to review the emails.

A spokesperson for the league said the Gruden emails were “appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.”

The league’s findings in the investigation have never been released to the public, or to the women who complained, including those protesting Monday night.

Instead, the cheerleaders allegedly found out about the topless photo incident in the press, nearly four months later.

“It’s despicable, really, to see that there is more evidence of exploitation and violation of these cheerleaders who I worked very closely with,” added Coburn.

The Washington Football Team has mostly stayed mum on the emails and the financial settlements reportedly worked out with former cheerleaders.

In addition to the protest, Coburn and others started a petition on Change.Org demanding the league make its findings public.

The petition says, “The NFL must do the right thing and make the sexual misconduct investigation of the WFT public AND hold Dan Snyder accountable for the history of serial sexual harassment within his organization.”

“The NFL along with the WFT employees, fans, alumni, and cheerleaders should stand up and disallow him from being a part of this historic franchise any longer. Ticket sales are at an all-time low and the name change controversy continues. It’s time to re-engage the fan base and create a winning game-day experience for everyone. This “rebranding” must include feedback and input from the women who have been on the sidelines supporting this team for more than a half-century.”

“In addition, we should all be fighting for the immediate reinstatement of the WFT Cheerleaders (The First Ladies of Football). After a recent legal settlement (stemming from lewd videos that were made for front office staff), the almost 60 year long cheerleading program was canceled. These women aren’t just on the literal sidelines. They support local charities, and visit veterans and sick children in local hospitals. They create incredible value through youth outreach programs and put their lives at risk on overseas military tours to engage with and honor our servicemen and women. This cannot and must not stand.”

To date, almost 42,000 people have signed the petition.

Coburn and Imbert’s full press release is below, along with pictures from the protest at FedExField.