Former Washington Football Team Employees Offer Explosive Testimony As Congressional Reps Call For Criminal Investigation into Snyder’s Franchise & Review of NFL’s Antitrust Protections
On Thursday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi met with Former Washington Football Team (WFT) employees to discuss workplace misconduct and the National Football League’s (NFL) handling of claims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse within the franchise while owner Dan Snyder was in charge. The hearing resulted in explosive claims by former cheerleaders and employees directly accusing Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder of allegedly inappropriately touching at least one woman, directing the creation of unauthorized nude videos of cheerleaders, and creating an environment full of sexual harassment toward women. Congressional reps called for a criminal investigation, sweeping changes to workplace laws, a re-examination of the NFL’s antitrust protections and accountability from the NFL, Goodell and Snyder.
The full hearing can be seen below.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
Several claims have surfaced in recent years from employees who either observed or experienced the WFT’s work environment, including allegations of sexual harassment and secret tapes of nude cheerleaders, allegedly filmed without their consent. Some of the secret tapes allegedly included filthy outtakes from cheerleading photoshoots.
When the issue was brought to front office’s attention, however, the team is accused by several former employees of failing to do anything about the issues presented to them.
Washington Football Team recruited Beth Wilkinson, an attorney, to begin an internal investigation into the claims in July 2020, but the WFT announced just a month later that the NFL would be taking over the investigation. In a change from past practice, the NFL has not made the conclusions or findings of the investigation public.
“For more than twenty years, employees of the Washington Football Team were subjected to sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and other misconduct,” said Chairwoman Maloney.
Maloney goes on to say, “The NFL’s decision to cover up these abuses raises serious questions about its commitment to setting workplace standards that keep employees safe. I commend these victims for their bravery in coming forward to share their stories.”
According to LOJ founder Amy Dash, who live-streamed the hearing with co-host Nick Ferguson, a former Denver Broncos player, several major recommendations arose during the Congressional roundtable, coming from both congressmen and women as well as former employees of the Washington Football Team. For one, several people called for Roger Goodell’s resignation, Congresswoman Speirer called for a criminal investigation into the alleged misconduct that took place, and several congressmen and women called for a review of NFL’s antitrust protections. Many Congressmen and women expressed shock that Dan Snyder is still the owner of an NFL franchise and some directly blamed Goodell for not doing enough to remedy or prevent the toxic culture alleged.
Employees got emotional as they described details of an alleged environment rife with sexist behavior, harassment and retaliation. Several former cheerleaders said it was top down and Snyder not only created and condoned it but participated, according to the allegations. One woman claimed Snyder inappropriately touched her and tried to get her inside his limo.
Some of the testimonies given today included Brad Baker, former video production manager and producer with the Washington Football Team. Baker says he was told to make nude videos of cheerleaders at Snyder’s direction.
“Those videos were created at the behest of the owner (Dan Snyder) and that is a criminal offense.” former cheerleader Melanie Coburn said.
Melanie Coburn, who was a former Director of Marketing, Marketing Coordinator, and Cheerleader for the Washington Football Team, said that oversight of the NFL and it’s teams stands within Congress, as there is no one else that can do it.
In the hearing, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the NFL has a racism and sexism problem and says congress should not protect the NFL with antitrust exemption.
In a statement from Congress, representatives said, “The NFL has one of the most prominent platforms in America and the lack of transparency about its handling of decades-long allegations of harassment and discrimination within one of its teams sets a dangerous precedent for other workplaces. To ensure real accountability, the NFL must end its cover-up, honor its commitment to cooperate with Congress, and release Wilkinson’s investigative findings.”
There were several calls by Congressional reps during the hearing to release the findings of the Wilkinson report and hold the NFL accountable.
The roundtable was also focused on Congressional solutions including new bills to prevent the use of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace to silence employees, and a proposal for a national commission on sexual harassment in the workplace.
One congressman called for a legislative solution for people who experience harassment or assault or even discrimination, when Human Resources fails to act.
Former WFT employees spoke out yesterday on HBO’s Real Sports, many of who have never spoken before. That came on the same day that the franchise officially made their name change, becoming the Washington Commanders. LOJ covered that story here.
Dan Snyder released a statement shortly after the hearing.
“I have acknowledged and apologized multiple times in the past for the misconduct which took place at the Team and the harm suffered by our valued employees,” Snyder said. “I apologize again today for this conduct, and fully support the people who have been victimized and come forward to tell their stories.”
Snyder continued, “While past conduct at the Team was unacceptable, the allegations leveled against me personally in today’s roundtable – many of which are well over 13 years old – are outright lies. I unequivocally deny having participated in any such conduct, at any time and with respect to any person. Tanya and I will not be distracted by those with a contrary agenda from continuing with the positive personnel and cultural changes that have been made at the team over the past 18 months, and those that we continue to make both on and off the field.”
The statements from former employees’ of the Washington D.C franchise comes the same week that former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, including the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins.
The lawsuit alleges that Flores was racially discriminated against during his time as Dolphins head coach, and in his current and past coaching interviews. The lawsuit has also accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering Brian Flores up to $100k to tank games for a better draft pick.
Congressional reps mentioned Colin Kaepernick, Jon Gruden, Brian Flores and other incidents as well while discussing racism and sexism in the NFL and questioning its antitrust protections.