15 Women Say They Were Sexually Harassed While Employees of Washington NFL Team

15 Women Say They Were Sexually Harassed While Employees of Washington NFL Team

FedEx Field is seen in this general view prior to an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Fifteen women who are former employees of the Washington NFL team say they were sexually harassed between 2006 and 2019 by other employees of the organization, including some members of owner Dan Snyder’s inner circle. 

Will Hobson and Liz Clarke of the Washington Post spoke to the 15 women, 14 of whom remained anonymous over fear of retribution or because they signed a non-disclosure agreement with the franchise. Washington declined to release the women who wished to speak from their non-disclosure agreements.

Emily Applegate, who began working with the team in 2014, said she and a co-worker would meet every day to “commiserate and cry about the frequent sexual harassment and verbal abuse they endured.” 

Snyder declined several requests from the Post to provide a comment on the allegations.

The team has retained attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate the allegations and the organization’s culture.

“The Washington 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 team said.

Coach Ron Rivera released a statement to ESPN’s John Keim after the story broke. 

“Biggest thing is that we have to move forward from this and make sure everybody understands we have policies that we will follow and that we have an open door policy with no retribution,” Rivera said. “Plus my daughter works for the team and I sure as hell am not going to allow any of this!”

Seven former employees accused team radio announcer Larry Michael of misconduct, including making inappropriate objectifying and sexual comments. Michael abruptly resigned from his position this week.

Alex Santos, the team’s former director of pro personnel, was accused by six former employees and two reporters of making sexual advances or comments. The Athletic reporter Rhiannon Walker said Santos pinched her and said she had “an ass like a wagon.” Walker also said Santos tried repeatedly to get her to date him despite the fact that she declined his advances. 

Santos, who is married, allegedly asked Walker if she would date him if both were single. He continued to persist with the harassment. 

“It felt like pretty much the worst thing in the world,” Walker said. “He didn’t care. He thought it was funny.” 

Nora Princiotti, a writer for The Ringer, also accused Santos of harassment. Princiotti said Santos told her she had “a great ass for a little white girl,” among other inappropriate comments. 

Santos was fired by the team last week. Assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II, who was also fired last week, texted a female employee that she would be receiving an “inappropriate hug … And don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else.”

Applegate accused former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman of repeated harassment. 

“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate said. “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.”

Women also accused team employees of attempting to look up their skirts at the team facility, giving unwanted compliments and shoulder rubs, and other forms of harassment. 

Applegate said she believed former team president Bruce Allen knew of the harassment because he saw her crying on several occasions. The women who spoke to the Post said they were skeptical Snyder did not know of the abuse. Neither Snyder nor Allen was accused of sexual misconduct.

However, Snyder was accused of fostering an abusive work environment. The team owner is accused of berating several employees and creating a toxic environment that set an example for his subordinates. The women also said Snyder allowed the organization to operate with an understaffed human resources department, making reporting harassment difficult.

“I have never been in a more hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment … and I worked in
politics,” former vice president of communications Julia Payne said. 

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