The female former employees accusing Washington's NFL team of permitting a hostile workplace rife with sexual harassment say they endured verbal abuse
The female former employees accusing Washington’s NFL team of permitting a hostile workplace rife with sexual harassment say they endured verbal abuse without the support of a functioning human resource department; but new coach Ron Rivera has vowed to change that, in part, because his daughter now works for the club.
‘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 wrote in a text message to ESPN’s John Keim. ‘Plus my daughter works for the team and I sure as hell am not going to allow any of this!’
Fifteen women who worked at the Washington NFL team have spoken out in a bombshell report accusing the franchise of running a workplace where sexual harassment and verbal abuse ran rampant.
The report, published by the Washington Post on Thursday after days of rumors and the abrupt departure of three team executives, cites former employee Emily Applegate and 14 other unnamed women, many of whom claimed they were left unsupported by an understaffed human resources department.
It comes just days after the team was forced to drop its name of 87 years, the Redskins, after pressure from sponsors over the racial insensitivity of the moniker.
‘Nobody deserves to be degraded and treated like that,’ Applegate, the only accuser to come forward publicly, told NBC’s Today Show on Friday. ‘Nobody deserves to be disrespected. And for any of us women that want to get into a career which is male dominated, we shouldn’t be afraid these things are going to happen.’
Applegate claimed her boss, former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman, routinely berated her for trivial problems such as printer malfunctions, while also complimenting her body.
‘Any issue that set him off, set him off like times ten,’ she told NBC. ‘That would be when he would curse at me. He would use derogatory slurs towards me.’
When contacted by the Post, Gershman did not recall the incidents.
‘I barely even remember who she is,’ Gershman told the Post. ‘I thought the Redskins was a great place to work. … I would apologize to anyone who thought that I was verbally abusive.’
Applegate claims that Gershman called her ‘f**king stupid’ and told her to wear a tight dress in a client meeting ‘so the men in the room have something to look at.’
‘It was the most miserable experience of my life,’ Applegate, now 31, told the Post of her year working as a marketing coordinator for the club, which she left in 2015.
She also claims a female coworker had her backside squeezed by a wealthy suite holder and was met by indifference by team executives when she complained.
‘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,’ she said.
While speaking with NBC, Applegate explained that male superiors with the team were not inclined to believe the accusations of a low-ranking female staff member.
‘These people are not going to believe or care about some young woman that’s making $32,000 a year when they have somebody that’s the COO of a company they have to protect.’
The NFL responded to the accusations on Friday.
‘These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,’ the league’s statement said. ‘Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment. Washington has engaged outside counsel to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations.
‘The club has pledged that it will give its full cooperation to the investigator and we expect the club and all employees to do so. We will meet with the attorneys upon the conclusion of their investigation and take any action based on the findings.’
WASHINGTON NFL TEAM EMPLOYEES ACCUSED OF MISCONDUCT OR NEGLIGENCE:
Former Washington Redskins director of pro personnel Alex Santos
Director of pro personnel Alex Santos: Six former employees and two reporters who covered the team told the Washington Post that Santos made inappropriate remarks to them about their appearances. He also asked them if they were interested in him romantically. In 2019, he allegedly pinched Rhiannon Walker, a reporter for The Athletic, and told her she had ‘an ass like a wagon.’ This resulted in an internal investigation. Another reporter, the Ringer’s Nora Princiotti, also accused Santos of harassing her. Santos, who declined to speak with the Post, was fired this past week.
Team radio play-by-play announcer Larry Michael: Seven former employees told the Post that ‘the voice of the Washington Redskins’ frequently talked openly about female co-workers looks, often making sexually disparaging remarks. He was once caught on a ‘hot mic’ in 2018 discussing the looks of one intern, six sources told the Post. Michael, who declined to speak with the Post, retired after 16 seasons on Wednesday.
Former radio announcer Larry Michael (left) and former assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II (right)
Assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II: In a text message obtained by the Post, Mann told a female colleague that he and other men in the office debated whether she had plastic surgery on her breasts. He also warned another female coworker to expect an ‘inappropriate hug’ from him, adding, ‘don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else.’ Mann declined to speak with the Post after being fired last week.
Former president of business operations Dennis Greene
President of business operations Dennis Greene: Five former employees told the Post that Greene asked female sales staffers to wear revealing outfits and flirt with wealthy season ticket holders and suite holders. Greene worked for the team for 17 years until 2018, when it was revealed that he had sold access to team cheerleaders at a bikini photo shoot in Costa Rica as part of a ticket package. According to a New York Times investigation, the 2013 calendar shoot did not involve any sex, but team officials did worry the cheerleaders by taking their passports. Some cheerleaders say they were required to be topless, although the shoot did not include any nudity. After a 14-hour shoot one day, nine of the 36 cheerleaders were reportedly asked to escort suite holders to a local nightclub. Several of the women began to cry, according to the Times. Greene declined to comment and has not worked for the team since being fired in 2018.
Chief operating officer Mitch Gershman: Former team Emily Applegate said he would routinely compliment her body while also regularly berating her for insignificant problems, like printer malfunctions. Her allegations were supported by two other female former employees. When contacted, Gershman told the Post, ‘I barely even remember who she is,’ adding that he ‘would apologize to anyone who thought I was verbally abusive.’ Gershman left the team in 2015.
Team president Bruce Allen: Although he is not accused of any misconduct, Applegate claims Allen must have known about the abuse she was receiving because ‘he sat 30 feet away from me… and saw me sobbing at my desk several times a week.’ The brother of former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen, Bruce Allen was fired after the 2019 season.
Majority owner Dan Snyder: The 55-year-old billionaire is not accused of any misconduct, but the Post’s sources say he presided over a lax corporate environment where misconduct was allowed to occur. Snyder was also accused of belittling executives, according to three members of the executive staff. Specifically, he mocked Dennis Greene for being a college cheerleader, once allegedly ordering him to do cartwheels for his amusement. Snyder remains the team’s majority owner.
Neither team owner Dan Snyder (left) or recently fired team president Bruce Allen (right) are accused of any misconduct, but sources did tell the Post that they should have been aware about the workplace culture, and neither did enough to stop it
Although they do not accuse team majority owner Dan Snyder of inappropriate workplace conduct, they say he presided over a lax corporate environment where misconduct was allowed to occur. Likewise, no accusations of misconduct were made against recently fired team president, Bruce Allen, the brother of former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen.
However, Applegate said she assumed that Bruce Allen ‘knew because he sat 30 feet away from me… and saw me sobbing at my desk several times a week.’
A team spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com.
The team told the Post in a statement that it had hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm, Wilkinson Walsh, ‘to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set new employee standards for the future.’
‘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 team said.
As the Post presented the allegations to the team for response this week, three team employees accused of improper behavior abruptly departed.
Alex Santos, the team’s director of pro personnel, and his assistant Richard Mann II were fired, and Larry Michael, the club’s longtime radio voice, announced his ‘retirement’ as rumors swirled about an impending report on the team’s workplace culture.
Now, the Post report details allegations against the three, as well as other former team executives. All declined to comment.
Seven former employees told the newspaper that Michael routinely discussed the physical appearance of female colleagues in sexual and disparaging overtones.
In 2018, Michael was also caught on a ‘hot mic’ speaking about the attractiveness of a college-aged intern, according to six former employees who heard the recording.
Santos was accused by six former employees and two reporters who covered the team of making inappropriate remarks about their bodies and asking them if they were romantically interested in him.
One reporter, The Athletic’s Rhiannon Walker, said she informed club management last year that Santos had pinched her, told her she had ‘an a** like a wagon,’ and repeatedly asked her to date him.
Mann, in text messages reviewed by the Post, allegedly told one female employee that he had been debating with male colleagues whether her breasts had been surgically enhanced.
In another text message, Mann reportedly told another female employee to expect an ‘inappropriate hug … And don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else.’
Two executives who previously left the team were also accused of misconduct.
Dennis Greene, former president of business operations, reportedly implored female sales staff to wear low-cut blouses, tight skirts and flirt with wealthy suite holders, according to five former employees, including Applegate.
Greene left the team in 2018 amid a scandal over the revelation he had sold access to Redskins cheerleaders as part of premium suite packages, including attending a bikini calendar shoot in Costa Rica.
Snyder was not accused of misconduct, but Applegate and others did blame him for the understaffed and overburdened human resources department as well as a the office’s permissive attitude about harassment.
However, the 55-year-old Snyder was accused of belittling executives, according to three members of the executive staff. Specifically, he mocked Greene for being a college cheerleader, once allegedly ordering him to do cartwheels for his amusement.
Former vice president of communications Julia Payne, who also worked for the Clinton White House, gave a dim view of the office culture.
‘I have never been in a more hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment,’ she told the Post, adding, ‘and I worked in politics.’
Thursday’s news comes during a tumultuous month in which the NFL franchise ditched its 87-year-old nickname, the ‘Redskins,’ following decades of criticism of a term that many find offensive to Native Americans.
A Maryland native and lifelong fan of the team, owner Snyder’s business career began in wallboard advertising and telemarketing. By 1996, at age 32, he had become the youngest CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to FastCompany.com.
In 1999, Snyder bought the team and its stadium, now known as FedExField, following previous owner Jack Kent Cooke’s death for $800 million — the most expensive franchise acquisition in sports history at the time.
To finance the deal, Snyder brought in investors Dwight Schar, owner of the third-largest home builder in the US, Florida financier Robert Rothman, and Frederick W. Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx, which owns the $205 million naming rights sponsorship on the team stadium.
Although he inherited a team that won three Super Bowls, most recently at the end of the 1991 season, Snyder’s Redskins have taken a nose dive over the last two decades.
Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, the team has a 142-193-1 record with eight head coaches and a whopping 21 different starting quarterbacks over that time.