WFT Offered Women Who Alleged Harassment a Financial Settlement in Return for Silence

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 13, 2021

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: A detailed view of the helmet of Wes Schweitzer #71 of the Washington Football Team is seen during the game between the Washington Football Team and the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Washington Football Team offered money to female former team employees so they would cease speaking about their time with the organization, according to the Washington Post's Will Hobson.

Emily Applegate, who worked in the marketing department, said she expected the monetary offer to be "disrespectfully low."

Lisa Banks, an attorney representing women who said they experienced sexual harassment, verbal abuse and other mistreatment as part of a toxic work environment, communicated to her clients that a nondisclosure agreement would have been a condition of the agreement. In addition, they would have been prohibited from talking in interviews and social media about what they experienced while employed by the Washington Football Team.

Megan Imbert, who was a producer in WFT's broadcast department, told Hobson the offer wasn't enticing.

"They were upset about our social media presence and press,” she said. “We turned it down because we see the bigger picture, and we have always been after meaningful change, both within the organization and across the league."

Imbert added that, "It just felt like they wanted to bury this and shut us up."

In July 2020, Hobson and colleague Liz Clarke published a report after speaking with 15 women who said they had been sexually harassed and verbally abused at WFT offices. 

Larry Michael, Washington's former senior vice president of content, and Alex Santos, the director of player personnel, were two men accused of harassment and abuse. 

Michael allegedly "routinely discussed the physical appearance of female colleagues in sexual and disparaging overtones," per the Post. Meanwhile, Santos "was accused by six former employees and two reporters who covered the team of making inappropriate remarks about their bodies and asking them whether they were romantically interested in him."

A follow-up from the Washington Post by Hobson, Clarke, Beth Reinhard and Dalton Bennett in August 2020 directly implicated team owner Daniel Snyder.

A video producer who worked under Michael said he was instructed to make a video compilation of outtakes from a WFT photo shoot in which the women's breasts were exposed. Michael indicated the video was intended for Snyder. 

In another incident, former cheerleader Tiffany Bacon Scourby said she was at a 2004 charity event when Snyder approached her and "suggested she join his close friend in a hotel room so they 'could get to know each other better.'"

Donald Wells, Scourby's cheerleading director, confirmed she had relayed the experience to him and that "she was more or less propositioned."

Susan Miller, who worked at an employee referral agency in Virginia, told the Washington Post that Snyder "denigrated people" and "treated women like servants."

Following an investigation into the allegations, the NFL announced in July it was fining the Washington Football Team $10 million and that Tanya Snyder "will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team operations and represent the club at all league meetings and other league activities for at least the next several months." However, the league never publicly released the findings of the investigation, including whether Snyder was further implicated in the harassment or abuse.

There's renewed scrutiny toward the investigation after it indirectly brought now-former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden into its orbit. During the investigation, email correspondence from Gruden was collected in which he used racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language.

According to Hobson, Applegate and Imbert were among the women who wrote a letter to a number of the NFL's biggest sponsors asking for more information on what was uncovered during the investigation. They also said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "deliberately burying the findings of the investigation."


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