An investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington Football Team resulted in a $10 million fine levied by the NFL on Thursday, in addition to a damning report on the team’s executive leadership.
That very pointedly includes team owner Dan Snyder, who the report says failed to establish appropriate standards and policies, including a policy of nonretaliation, and failed to instill an ethic of respect at the club.
In addition to the fine, which the league says “will be used to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics,” the team must implement a number of policy recommendations.
Those include developing protocols for reporting harassment (one female employee told The Washington Post the team had no real human resources department); developing a plan to discipline misconduct; conducting culture surveys and harassment trainings; and assigning additional HR resources exclusively to the cheerleading team.
“For many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional,” the league concluded Thursday. “Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.”
In a statement following the report’s release, Snyder announced his wife, Tanya Snyder, would assume control of the team’s day-to-day operations including representing the club in all league activities.
“I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here,” Dan Snyder said in a statement. “I’m truly sorry for that. I can’t turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I are the owners of this team.”
The report was at least partially prompted by a July 2020 investigation in The Washington Post that detailed numerous disturbing claims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse in the team’s front office, based on interviews with 15 former employees.
“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” former employee Emily Applegate told the paper. “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.”
That story followed a lurid 2018 investigation by The New York Times into a trip to Costa Rica for the cheerleading squad’s annual calendar photo shoot. Women on the squad told the paper they were required to be topless, and that club executives had invited sponsors and FedExField suite holders to attend the shoot.
One night, some of the cheerleaders were forced to attend a nightclub with some of the male sponsors after being informed the men had selected them. Though no sex was involved, one woman told the Times it was nevertheless akin to the team “pimping us out.”
The investigation was initially handled by an independent agency, but at the Washington Football Team’s request the NFL assumed oversight soon after it began.