Fifteen Former Female Employees of Washington’s NFL Team Allege Sexual Harassment in Workplace

Tom Schad at USA Today

Fifteen former female employees of Washington’s NFL team told The Washington Post that they were sexually harassed while working for the club, according to a report published Thursday.

The allegations span from 2006 to 2019, according to the newspaper, and range from inappropriate remarks about female employees’ bodies or clothing, to instances of verbal abuse. The Post also details allegations of sexual harassment from two female reporters, one of whom still covers the team.

Washington’s NFL franchise – it is based in Ashburn, Virginia – has retained D.C.-based law firm Wilkinson Walsh to review the matter, according to attorney Beth Wilkinson, who told USA TODAY Sports that her firm will be reviewing “the team’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct.” (ESPN first reported the firm’s hiring.)

In response to a text message seeking comment, team spokesperson Sean DeBarbieri referred USA TODAY Sports to the team’s statement in The Post’s story.

“The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously,” the team told the newspaper. “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.”

In a statement provided by league spokesperson Brian McCarthy on Friday morning, the NFL called the reported events “serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values.”

“Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment,” the league said in its statement. “Washington has engaged outside counsel to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. The club has pledged that it will give its full cooperation to the investigator and we expect the club and all employees to do so. We will meet with the attorneys upon the conclusion of their investigation and take any action based on the findings.”

Team owner Dan Snyder is not directly implicated in any wrongdoing in The Post’s report. However, the newspaper reported that some of those interviewed expressed skepticism that he would be unaware of inappropriate behavior, while also citing the team’s lack of a robust human resources department as an issue.

All of the allegations outlined by The Post involve men who occupied prominent roles in the organization, three of whom left in the past week.

Richard Mann II and Alex Santos, longtime members of the team’s personnel department, were fired over the weekend, according to multiple reports. Larry Michael, the team’s long-time radio voice, then abruptly announced his retirement Wednesday after 16 seasons with the club. (All three men declined comment to The Post.)

Former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman and former president of business operations Dennis Greene are also implicated in the report. Greene declined comment to The Post, and Gershman denied the accusations against him.

Thursday’s report comes less than one week after pressure from major corporate sponsors led Washington to announce it would be dropping its team name, which many had long viewed as a racial slur. The team has yet to reveal a rebranding or new logo.

It also comes a little more than two years after a report by The New York Times, in which former members of Washington’s cheerleading squad alleged they were asked to pose topless at a photo shoot and accompany male sponsors to events – an arrangement that some cheerleaders likened to “pimping us out.”

Washington’s NFL team, which finished 3-13 last season, has seen significant turnover at the highest levels of the organization over the past year.

After firing coach Jay Gruden last season, Washington also ousted head athletic trainer Larry Hess and longtime team president and general manager Bruce Allen, who had long been Snyder’s right-hand man.

Former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was hired to replace Gruden but has taken on a significant role beyond coaching. Ryan Vermillion, who worked with Rivera in Carolina, replaced Hess. Allen’s former post remains vacant.

The franchise’s three minority owners – Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith – are also seeking to sell their shares in the team, according to multiple reports.

In response to The Post’s story, Rivera told multiple media outlets that the “biggest thing is we have to move forward from this” and create an environment in which employees can speak without fear of retribution.

“Dan Snyder brought me here to change culture (and) create an environment of inclusion among employees,” Rivera told The Athletic.

“I believe everyone that works for this franchise has a vested interest in our success.”

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