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Former Washington Women Employees Want Responsibility, And They Showed Up To NFL Owners Meetings To Get It

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The letter demanded transparency and accountability from the investigation into the toxic, sexist and misogynistic work environment cultivated over two decades under Daniel Snyders’ supervision.

I want everyone to know the horrific things that happened in that organization, Coburn said. I think the owners deserve to know. I think the league, the fans, the sponsors, everyone needs to know the truth about what’s happening there and what will continue to happen there with the leadership in place.

Coburn and Nunez felt the need to deliver the letter in person because there has been an appalling lack of accountability for Snyder or anyone involved with the WFT. Snyder was temporarily removed from his team’s day-to-day activities and the team was fined $10 million, but that was basically it as punishment. The team is now controlled by Snyders’ wife, Tanya, and it’s only a matter of time before Snyder regains control.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the Celebration of Life ceremony for former Miami Dolphins football head coach Don Shula on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (AP Photo/Bryan Cereijo)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the Celebration of Life ceremony for former Miami Dolphins football head coach Don Shula on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (AP Photo/Bryan Cereijo)Bryan Creijo/Associated Press

Most egregiously, the NFL instructed independent investigator Beth Wilkinson not to prepare a written report, but to ask her for a verbal reminder. This from the same league that received a 243 page written report from Ted Wells about the Patriots’ deflated footballs.

To be told it was presented orally was kind of a slap in the face, Nunez said. We want them to make [them] responsible, especially Dan Snyder for letting this happen over and over for years.

The owners declined to speak to the media after Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioner Roger Goodell instead took the heat at a press conference. He said the competition’s response was appropriate as it promised privacy and anonymity to many of the 150 people interviewed in the study. He also disagreed with the qualification that Snyder was not held responsible.

Goodell commissioned the study after more than 40 women came to the Washington Post in the summer of 2020 and described a pattern of sexual harassment, misogyny and borderline prostitution. The results were announced just before July 4.

We have pledged to protect anonymity to ensure we get the correct information, Goodell said. We have to stand behind that. We are well aware that we are protecting those who came forward. They were incredibly brave, incredibly open.

But Nunez, Coburn and dozens of their former colleagues are outraged by the report being buried.

The NFL should not encourage employees to come forward at great personal and professional risk to speak to investigators, only to brush the results of that investigation under the rug, read their letter signed by Nunez, Coburn and 10 of their former colleagues.

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden is the only victim of the Washington Football Team investigation so far.
Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden is the only victim of the Washington Football Team investigation so far.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The only person charged with the investigation is Jon Gruden, whose sexist, homophobic and racist emails to former WFT president Bruce Allen were leaked to the media and led to his resignation as Raiders coach.

The NFL has 650,000 emails it keeps private, as well as details of hundreds of interviews it has conducted.

The NFL must make the findings of the WFT investigation public, the letter says. We call on you to demand that the NFL make the findings public. We call on you to do the right thing.

The most infamous allegations revolve around the WFT cheerleaders. The cheerleaders were reportedly encouraged to get close with suite owners and team sponsors invited to photo shoots on the calendar. Snyder also had a $1.6 million settlement with a former employee in 2009.

It sounds awful, but they were trying to pimp them out, said Coburn, who was a cheerleader from 1997-2001 and an employee until 2011, helping run the cheerleading squad. I felt like I should stay there longer because I felt like I had to protect [the cheerleaders].

But the incidents weren’t just about the cheerleaders. Nunez was in sales and suites during her 2015-18 tenure.

I know a lot of people want to talk about how this happened years ago, but I was within the last three or four years, Nunez said. There are top employees who make comments about what you wear, your appearance, and you just have to brush that off.

Nunez said she was encouraged to talk about her experiences with WFT’s assistant general counsel in 2018, but nothing came of the conversation, and she was fired in 2019. WFT had a small human resources department that has since become more robust and formalized as a result of the investigation.

If something happens to you, you should be able to go to HR for an interview and then have something happen, Nunez said. There was nothing.

But now Congress is getting involved. The NFL received a letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week requesting documents and information about the WFT investigation and why the NFL never requested a written report from Wilkinson. Goodell said the league will work with the congressional committee.

The NFL’s lack of transparency about the issues it has recently exposed raises questions about the seriousness with which it has tackled bigotry, racism, sexism and homophobia and set a disturbing precedent for other workplaces, the committee wrote. We hope and trust that the NFL shares the committees’ goal to protect American workers from harassment and discrimination.

So far, the NFL has not shown that it supports that goal. That’s why Nunez and Coburn came here on Tuesday with a plea to the owners.

I know my story and what I went through there, and I want my story, Melanie’s story, everyone’s story to be released. Because this isn’t OK, Nunez said. We need accountability now.


Ben Volin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.

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