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NFL

Washington Commanders' Daniel Snyder facing new allegations of 'workplace misconduct.'

A meeting with the US House of Representatives brought forth new allegations of workplace misconduct against Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Update:
A meeting with the US House of Representatives brought forth new allegations of workplace misconduct against Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.
AFP

Though much focus will be on the fact that the franchise just officially changed names for the second time in two years, the reality is the team from Washington has been facing a serious internal investigation.

US Government enters Washington Commanders investigation

According to reports on Thursday, there are now six former employees of the Washington Commanders (Washington Football Team) who met with senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Oversight Committee to discuss workplace misconduct inside the organization. The news comes some seven months after the NFL concluded it's own official investigation into the franchise. The meeting resulted in new allegations - including claims of inappropriate behavior by team owner Daniel Snyder, as well as a renewed commitment to "potential legislative solutions" which will center enforcing accountability where the NFL and Washington's "perpetrators of sexual harassment" are concerned.

The meeting was hosted by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illonois. and held in the Oversight Committee's Washington, D.C., hearing room. The employees in question were Emily Applegate, former marketing coordinator; Brad Baker, former video production manager; Melanie Coburn, former cheerleader and director of marketing; Rachel Engleson, former director of marketing and client relations; Tiffani A. Johnston, former cheerleader and marketing manager; and Ana Nunez, former coordinator of business development.

Washington Commanders employees have their say

Speaking on the basis of the investigation, Rep. Krishnamoorthi was frank. "We launched this investigation because the NFL has not been transparent about the workplace misconduct issues it uncovered within [Washington]," said Krishnamoorthi before testimony from the ex-staffers. "These victims are bravely coming forward with their stories, sharing details of despicable abuse in their workplace. ...Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable." It's worth noting that staff members also stated that the NFL actively "covered up" before the investigation began.

Applegate herself spoke of daily harassment from the team's former chief marketing officer, explaining that she was "told not to speak to Dan Snyder or to even look at Dan Snyder" regarding her worries about misconduct. Then there was Baker, who explained that he and others were "told to edit together lewd footage" of the cheerleaders' "Beauties on the Beach" calendar shoot documentary "at the request of Daniel Snyder." According to Baker the footage featured moments when the cheerleaders' "breasts and pubic areas were exposed." Bakers' testimony was later corroborated by Coburn. The former video production manager said the video was "secretly made" as "essentially a soft-porn video, soundtracked to Dan Snyder's favorite bands." Coburn also alleged, that not long after starting her role with the franchise, she was invited to sleep at Snyder's home in Aspen, Colorado, after a drunken "awards trip" dinner, however, she was told she would have to sleep in the basement "because the men had invited prostitutes back".

What has been alleged about Daniel Snyder?

When reports initially broke in 2021, Coburn alleged that Snyder had private investigators sent to the homes of numerous former cheerleaders. Coburn also went on to explain that she was offered money by Snyder in exchange for public silence about his inappropriate behavior. Additionally Coburn also stated that she was harassed by a member of the team in 2005. According to her statements, after informing the human resources department, she was told "I'm sorry that this is happening. ...If it's gonna be him or you, it's gonna be you." Coburn went on to say that she was seeking accountability. "Daniel Snyder should not be managing any human beings," Coburn said. "He needs to be held accountable for his actions."

For more from the NFL

The account of fellow employee Tiffani Johnston seemed to echo a similar tune. According to Johnston - an eight year employee - she was "strategically" seated next to Snyder at a work dinner so he could put "his hand on the middle of my thigh until I physically removed it". Johnston indicated that she had not given consent and that the action was made in an intentionally sexual manner. Johnston made further allegations, stating that Snyder "aggressively pushed" her toward his limo later in the night before his attorney stopped him while advising not to follow through with his "very bad idea."

Addressing the allgations directly, Rep. Krishnamoorthi said, "That rot started at the top, with team owner Daniel Snyder, and it trickled down. Mr. Snyder claimed...that he was 'unaware of these allegations' and was simply 'hands-off as an owner.' Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. And [NFL commissioner] Mr. [Roger] Goodell has engaged in troubling behavior as well. Goodell claimed in 2014 to embrace a 'higher standard' for the NFL ...[but] the NFL deep-sixed the findings from its own investigations of the Washington Football Team."

Daniel Snyder gives a statement

In the wake of the very serious allegations made against him, Daniel Snyder gave a statement in which he directly addressed the investigation and it's implications. Indeed, via his PR representative Snyder issued the following statement:

"I have acknowledged and apologized multiple times in the past for the misconduct which took place at the Team and the harm suffered by some of our valued employees. I apologize again today for this conduct, and fully support the people who have been victimized and have come forward to tell their stories. For their part, the franchise has embarked on the road to restructuring of it's policies, procedures and personnel since reports first surfaced in 2020. That being said, Snyder went on to add, "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."

How did Daniel Snyder get here?

It was July 2020 when news of an official NFL investigation into work place conduct first broke. In that report there were accounts from some 15 former female employees, all of whom alleged sexual harassment by various staffers over the course of 18 years. Ironically, Snyder himself initially vowed to conduct his own investigation into the workplace environment of the franchise. Yet things would take an even more sinister turn when it was reported that Snyder was the head of an "organization in which women say they have been marginalized, discriminated against and exploited".

In what would be yet another plot twist, it was just a year later, when in July 2021, the NFL cited undisclosed findings from independent investigator Beth Wilkinson in fining Washington $10 million for a "highly unprofessional" work environment. What was the result? Snyder would formally relinquish his day-to-day duties as team owner with his wife, Tanya, taking over as CEO. That, however, was not to be the end of it as in October 2021,the Oversight Committee - the House of Representatives' main investigative arm - contacted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to request all documents and findings related to the Washington investigation. What happened next continues to raise eyebrows in that, there were then additional reports of emails in which former staffers were discriminatory in their exchanges. That in turn led to the resignation of then-Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Following Gruden's departure, legal representatives for 40 different former Washington employees demanded that the NFL fully disclose the 650,000+ emails that were examined as part of the investigation. To date the NFL has refused to do so on the grounds of maintaining confidentiality.

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