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Washington Post Story Details History Of Sexual Harassment In Redskins Franchise

Fifteen female former employees of the team detail a toxic work environment, providing statements alleging harassment and mistreatment spanning over a decade.

NFL Franchise Washington Redskins To Change Team Name After 87 Years Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Thursday evening the Washington Post published an article that details allegations of ongoing sexual harassment of female employees and interns between 2006 and 2019.

The article details specific examples or harassment and abuse that include “unwelcome overtures or comments of a sexual nature, and exhortations to wear revealing clothing and flirt with clients to close sales deals.” Several high-level employees of the franchise are cited as perpetuating a “toxic, mood-driven environment,” including the longtime “voice of the Redskins”, Larry Michael, who announced his retirement earlier this week, former Director of Pro Personnel, Alex Santos, and the Assistant Director of Pro Personnel, Richard Mann, both of whom were reportedly fired after the club was contacted for comment last week. In addition, the article detailed complaints against former President of Business Operations, Dennis Greene, and former Chief Operating Officer, Mitch Gershman.

The over 4,500-word story cites statements from fifteen former employees of the team, fourteen of whom, “spoke on the condition of anonymity citing a fear of litigation, as some signed nondisclosure agreements with the team that threaten legal retribution if they speak negatively about the club.” The lone source who spoke out and was willing to come forward openly was Emily Applegate, who worked as a marketing coordinator for a year before leaving the club in 2015.

“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate, now 31, said of her year working as a marketing coordinator for the club, which she left in 2015. “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.”

The article stated quite explicitly that none of the allegations directly involved owner Dan Snyder or former President Bruce Allen:

No woman accused Snyder or former longtime team president Bruce Allen of inappropriate behavior with women, but they expressed skepticism the men were unaware of the behavior they allege.

“I would assume Bruce [Allen] knew, because he sat 30 feet away from me … and saw me sobbing at my desk several times every week,” Applegate said.

While Applegate and others did not accuse Snyder of acting improperly with women, they blamed him for an understaffed human resources department and what they viewed as a sophomoric culture of verbal abuse among top executives that they believed played a role in how those executives treated their employees.

The team responded with a statement from recently-hired attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm, Wilkinson Walsh that they were going “to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set new employee standards for the future.” In addition, she added, “The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously … 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.”

The story stated that both Snyder and Allen had refused to comment on the story when contacted.

New head coach Ron Rivera was reached via phone prior but, “declined to discuss why Santos and Mann were dismissed.” He added, “We’re trying to create a new culture here...We’re hoping to get people to understand that they need to judge us on where we are and where we’re going, as opposed to where we’ve been”

Although some rumors published this week indicated that former Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Eric Schaffer would be mentioned in the article in a negative light, he was actually portrayed in a mostly positive light. The story quotes Ms. Applegate talking about an encounter with Schaffer in 2015:

Applegate said, she was pulled aside by Eric Schaffer, the club’s general counsel and senior vice president, who left earlier this year.

Schaffer was appalled by the verbal abuse Applegate endured from Gershman, she said he told her, and he offered to serve as a witness or connect her with a lawyer if she wanted to file a formal complaint. Applegate declined, and said she feared making an issue of Gershman’s conduct would mark the end of her career with the team.

Applegate regards Schaffer as one of the few male team executives who treated her well. Some of her former colleagues, however, expressed outrage that Schaffer didn’t file a complaint of his own.

The story also details the lack of any meaningful Human Resources support in the organization. Instead, the department “consists of one full-time staffer — who also performs administrative duties at team headquarters — responsible for more than 220 full-time employees, according to several former employees.”

Overall, this story paints a picture of a hostile work environment in which female employees were regularly subjected to humiliating working conditions and fear that they would lose their jobs if they complained. While the first round of firings for those involved occurred prior to the Post’s publication, there will undoubtedly be more fallout stemming from this story in the coming days and weeks to come.