“I Would Love For There to Be A Criminal Investigation” into Alleged Pornographic Cheerleader Videos, Says Former WFT Employee.
A former Washington Football Cheerleader and former employee from the team’s video department say the alleged videos featuring the nude private parts of some of the team’s former cheerleaders is criminal in nature. The two hopped on a zoom call with League of Justice Founder Amy Dash to discuss a side that was not being covered. Dash raised the question of whether the two believe there should be a criminal investigation into the alleged video taping and distribution of reportedly pornographic videos featuring some members of the team’s former cheerleading squad.
“This is criminal, this shouldn’t have happened,” said former cheerleader Melanie Coburn. “When I found out these videos were made without our knowledge, without the women’s consent and exploiting them in this way, I had to come forward.”
Coburn says she is speaking out on behalf of her friends on the squad, because they signed non-disclosure agreements following a confidential settlement of the matter. The agreements reportedly preclude the cheerleaders from going public about the videos allegedly called “good bits videos” that Coburn believes were filmed for team owner Dan Snyder.
Coburn says the existence of the videos was independently validated and confirmed during the settlement negotiations.
“The women who did see the videos told me that they were very obviously done with purpose,” said Coburn who is not in the videos. “There were zooming on private parts. There was cameras rolling when they shouldn’t have been. There was changing in between sets happening that shouldn’t have been on camera. There was purpose to them. They were specifically capturing purpose for these “good bits” videos.”
Coburn claims the videos were surreptitiously filmed by people employed by the Washington Football Team while cheerleaders changed on the set of calendar shoots. The team videographers were supposed to be filming behind the scenes videos for the “Beauties on the Beach” videos which profile individual cheerleaders, but those videographers were not supposed to be filming the cheerleaders private parts while they changed on set.
“They are moving and the wind blows and their nipples are exposed. It shouldn’t be on video,” said Coburn. “A lot of people don’t realize what a travesty it is, and it is criminal.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” said former Washington Football Team video department employee Megan Imbert. “When I found that out I was like ‘wow, there’s gonna be lives turned upside down’.”
Imbert continued, as she appeared to choke up, “I’m gonna get emotional about it. I can’t even explain to you the betrayal on so many levels that this was happening under our noses.”
Imbert says that during her time with the team, she once walked into an edit room and saw suspicious images on screen and that’s when she realized something was amiss.
Several former Washington Football Team employees, including Brad Baker, who worked in the video department from 2007-2009 as a producer, have since come forward to acknowledge the existence of the alleged “good bits” videos.
Baker told the Washington Post that Larry Michael, the team’s lead broadcaster and a senior vice president was the one who allegedly instructed staffers to make a video for team owner Dan Snyder. Coburn alleges that the video was set to Snyder’s favorite bands including Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. Imbert believes there may be more than two video compilations that show nude cheerleaders on set of a swimsuit shoot.
League of Justice Founder Amy Dash explained that, generally speaking, the distribution of nude images or videos may fall under the revenge porn laws in Washington, depending on the facts of the case. While some people may think revenge porn is only criminally enforced against exes who unlawfully share their former girlfriend/boyfriend or spouses’ images, the truth is that the law is enforced broadly against people that sometimes don’t know eachother.
In order for the electronic distribution of nude photos to fall under the revenge porn criminal laws, prosecutors would need to prove several things, including that the nude images were filmed and distributed without consent and with an intent to harm someone or gain financially.
In the case of the Washington Football cheerleaders, there would have to be proof that the videos were actually distributed electronically. If they were distributed with the intent to financially benefit or to hurt the women, to fewer than five people it could be a misdemeanor. If the distribution occurred to more than five people electronically, it could be a felony. If proof surfaced that implicated others in the distribution or planning of the alleged videos, there could also be criminal liability for those individuals as well, under the same revenge porn statutes.
The Washington Football Team has come under fire following an internal hostile workplace investigation that resulted in a $10 Million dollar fine from the NFL. The results of the investigation were never made public. The NFL was recently directed to examine emails sent by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden to former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen, after controversial emails containing racist, homophobic and other offensive comments written by Gruden surfaced. Reportedly, at least one Gruden email also allegedly contained images of cheerleaders, though it’s unclear if they were nude in the images or if the images were from the alleged x-rated videos.
Congress recently made a demand on the League to publicly release an estimated 650,000 emails reviewed as part of the team investigation. Two members of the House of Representatives also urged the team to release individuals from non-disclosure agreements.
The belief by Imbert and Coburn that the videos may have been distributed to the team’s owner and others, makes the disclosure of those 650,000 emails critical to any type of law enforcement investigation. Right now there is not one going on, that is publicly known.
Imbert said, when the scandal initially broke, she and Baker discussed who to approach.
“Do we go to the FBI?” Imbert recalls asking herself at the time. “How do we approach this in a fashion that it would be handled appropriately when it comes to criminal charges?”
“Why isn’t there a criminal investigation into this?” Dash asked.
“I would love for there to be one Amy,” said Imbert. “I would love nothing more than Dan Snyder, Larry Michael sitting in the court of law and being held accountable for this.”
Imbert and Coburn mentioned the cheerleaders who were allegedly featured in the video had signed NDAs related to settlements specifically focused on the alleged videos and were scared to come forward. Dash explained that in many states, NDAs may act as waivers in the civil context but cannot lawfully prevent someone from reporting a crime or cooperating in a criminal investigation.
Coburn said the distribution of the alleged videos to Snyder would be hard to prove because according to her knowledge, Snyder does not use email for team business. The women said the videos would have been allegedly distributed to him via DVD copy.
However, the alleged existence of some cheerleader images in Gruden’s inbox could mean others received electronic copies of the alleged “good bits” videos.
Last Thursday was the Congressional deadline for the NFL to hand over the emails and other results of the investigation. The NFL has reportedly promised to cooperate but the women said they had not heard about anything being handed over as of yet.
LOJ was first to report that a petition created by Coburn and calling on the NFL to release the findings of its workplace investigation generated over 40,000 signatures. The NFLPA made a similar call for the release of the 650,000 emails. The NFL responded by saying it would not make those emails public. However, this precluded the Congressional inquiry that is now unfolding.
“We still don’t have visibility and transparency into what was actually figured out in that report,” said Imbert. “It’s another reason why I want transparency around the release of this report….Outside of my own personal experiences working there and the harrassment and the treatment that I had, this sets it over the top for me. How do we know that there weren’t cameras in their changing rooms?”
Imbert continued, “It sets a precedent that really angers me and upsets me. This is on a whole different level of privacy and that level of power, it’s just disgusting. It’s just completely inappropriate.”
The women expressed frustration that Michael was not fired, following Baker’s whistleblowing to The Washington Post, and was instead allowed to retire by Snyder. Imbert said Michael is potentially part of Snyder’s “inner circle.”
“A lot of footage disappeared when he disappeared,” said Coburn. “So I don’t even know that there’s forensic evidence left.”
“ I left dreams on the table at that job,” said Imbert. “I trusted the people that I worked with. There’s people I think are involved in this or have knowledge, that are thriving still in sports… This is one of those things where people’s livelihoods are being protected whereas these women have been exploited and taken advantage of and in the worst way possible and having that fear of who has access to this data. Who has access right now even at the league of said emails? All of that makes me very concerned around data privacy and protections.”
Coburn said that Snyder allegedly sent private investigators to the homes of several former cheerleaders even after a settlement was reached. Coburn called it an intimidation tactic.
“I have been anxiety filled for the past year,” Coburn said. “Speaking out has not been easy…[a] law firm sent these PIs to over a dozen cheerleaders homes all across the country,” said Coburn. “I think that’s a form of intimidation to show up on someone’s porch unannounced at night when they had already settled this case back in December.”
Imbert and Coburn said the women who were featured nude in the alleged videos are traumatized.
Imbert added, “I want nothing more than for there to be true justice for this type of behavior. I know if the truth comes out, you’ll see that this leadership should not be in control of a franchise of the National Football League.”
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