The news surrounding Washington’s NFL team began as a tease.
Following the team’s announcement on Monday morning that it would be retiring the “Redskins” nickname and logo, rumors began to circulate among NFL reporters that this was just the beginning of the breaking news this week for Washington.
In the buildup to the news, three team employees were abruptly fired this past week. The club’s longtime radio voice Larry Michael was cut as well as the team’s director of pro personnel, Alex Santos.
We found out why when the Washington Post published a story on Thursday detailing the sexual harassment and verbal abuse by former team employees at Redskins Park. One of the employees, Emily Applegate, spoke about her experience working for the team.
“They cried about the former chief operating officer’s expletive-laced tirades, Applegate said, when she recalled him calling her “f---ing 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.” They cried about a wealthy suiteholder who grabbed her friend’s backside during a game, Applegate said, and the indifference the team’s top sales executive displayed when she complained.”
The other 14 women cited in the Post’s story spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fear of litigation because of signed nondisclosure agreements with the team. At the time of the story’s posting, Washington had denied a request for comment. On Friday morning, owner Dan Snyder released a statement.
“The behavior described in yesterday’s Washington Post article has no place in our franchise or society,” the statement read. “This story has strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team, a process that began with the hiring of Coach Rivera earlier this year. Beth Wilkinson and her firm are empowered to do a full, unbiased investigation and make any and all requisite recommendations. Upon completion of her work, we will institute new policies and procedures and strengthen our human resources infrastructure to not only avoid these issues in the future but most importantly create a team culture that is respectful and inclusive of all.”
As mentioned in Snyder’s statement, the team has hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm Wilkinson Walsh to provide a third-party investigation.
The NFL also released a statement Friday morning through spokesman Brian McCarthy.
“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,” the statement read. ”Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment.”
The allegations raised range from 2006 to 2019, spanning the majority of Snyder’s tenure. For the most part, the allegations falls into the following two categories: unwelcome advance or sexual comments, and pressure to wear revealing clothing and flirt with clients. Michael and Santos, the two men who were fired earlier this week, are former members of Snyder’s inner circle.
Snyder himself was not included in the indictments. Former general manager Bruce Allen, who was dismissed just last year, was also not cited directly. Though, the women believe that both men had to know what was happening.
In addition to Michael and Santos, three other men were mentioned in the story: Richard Mann II, the assistant director of pro personnel, Dennis Greene, the former president of business operations and Mitch Gershman, the former chief operating officer. The indictments made against the three include text messages about employee’s breasts, imploring female staff to wear low-cut blouses and tight skirts and in appropriate compliments of female’s bodies.
In addition to the 15 women, two female reporters who cover the team are also cited in the article, including The Athletic’s Rhiannon Walker and the Ringer’s Nora Princiotti. Walker informed club management that Santos had pinched her and told her she had “an ass like a wagon.” Princiotti said she was also harassed by Santos.
Snyder has preached a culture change since hiring head coach Ron Rivera. That is proving to be an extensive undertaking.
“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate said. “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.”