How many more women need to publicly relive the nightmare of being sexually harassed while employed by the Washington Football Team for the NFL to take them seriously? How many more women need to name their abusers into a microphone, detailing the chilling stories of how they were grabbed and groped and taunted by their own bosses in front of the United States House of Representatives? How many more women will suffer through old trauma before our nation’s darling little football league admits to its complicity in the institutionalized silencing of its employees?
No, seriously. I’m asking: How fucking many? Because Emily Applegate, Melanie Coburn, Tiffani Johnston, Megan Imbert, Rachel Engleson, Ana Nunez, Tiffany Bacon Scourby, Alicia Klein, Shannon Slate, and dozens of other anonymous former Washington Football Team employees who went through hell at work, under the watchful eye of the NFL, are somehow not enough.
On Wednesday, three more anonymous former Washington Football Team employees came forward with new allegations of sexual harassment on an episode of HBO’s Real Sports podcast, claiming players whipped their dicks out in the middle of the workplace and asked them to engage in sex, while another player told a woman she had “DSL” (dick sucking lips). One employee said she was admonished for not sleeping with a potential sponsor in order to close a deal. Alexis, another anonymous source, said, “I felt like a piece of meat.”
And on Thursday, six of the team’s former employees pled their case in front of Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney’s House Oversight Committee. Since the Washington Post first detailed allegations against the team in July of 2020, the mountain of individuals speaking out both against former executives and team owner Dan Snyder has continued to grow. But the NFL still won’t release its final report—initiated first by Snyder in 2020, then passed to the NFL for an independent investigation—nearly four months after its completion. The victims suspect that the report will detail the specific horrors of the Washington Football Team’s dangerous workplace culture that the NFL does not want getting out.
At Thursday’s House hearing, multiple survivors of the team’s repeated abuse and sexual harassment relived moments of physical violations and emotional manipulation in front of Congress. Tiffany Mattingly Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing employee, came forward with new allegations, saying Snyder verbally abused employees in front of her. She also said Snyder had inappropriately touched her at a team dinner, placing a hand on her leg while she was seated next to him. After the dinner, Johnston said Snyder then pushed her towards his limo and offered to take her back to her car. She recalled a team attorney at the time walked up to him and said, sternly, “Dan. Very bad idea.”
Rep. Maloney also presented a letter from Jason Friedman, a former VP who worked for the Washington Football Team for over 20 years and who had previously not spoken out on this matter. Friedman said he was with Johnston the night of the dinner, and witnessed Snyder grab Johnston’s arm and attempt to pull her into his limousine.
Nunez, a former sales employee who has spoken out previously, said she was harassed by multiple executives when she was 23 years old, including a former SVP of communications who commented on her jeans in an “inappropriate way,” and the since-fired director of pro personnel Alex Santos. She had reached out to Santos as he was one of the only employees of Latino background. He later texted her, “You look nice” and detailed “things he would do” to her.
Rachel Engleson, also a former employee who previously spoke out, said in her testimony to Congress that working with the Washington Football Team was her first job. “I experienced many work firsts there: first bonus, first promotion, first office potluck, first employee hire, first threat of physical violence by a supervisor, first hostile work environment, first public humiliation, first sexual assault.”
Engleson added that the man who sexually harassed her was old enough to be her father, and that she was so afraid that she often hid from him at public events, positioning herself between colleagues so he couldn’t reach her.
“Under Dan Snyder’s leadership, women were used as sex objects and tools to increase sales rather than dignified human beings,” said Melanie Coburn, a former team cheerleader and marketing employee who has previously spoken out and who testified Thursday. She said that Snyder once gathered the cheerleaders in the middle of the field for him and his buddies to observe, then instructed them to turn around slowly like “a collection of toys.” Coburn said one of the cheerleaders began crying because she was so uncomfortable.
Snyder responded via his PR representative with the following statement:
Snyder claimed many of the allegations leveled against him personally at the hearing Thursday were “outright lies,” continuing that he “will not be distracted by those with a contrary agenda.”
While the hearing was full of moving testimony, Republicans continued to minimize the rampant issue of sexual assault, not just in the NFL, but across workplaces in America. Kentucky Rep. James Comer (R) said the Committee should be focusing, instead, on issues of inflation, enforcing the Mexico border, and China.
“Instead of adhering to our committee’s mission to root out waste, fraud, and abuse and mismanagement in the federal government, Democrats instead are holding a roundtable about the work culture in one single private organization,” Comer said. Notably, that “single private organization” is one of the most visible in the U.S. right now.
After its 18-month probe, the NFL had slapped the Washington Football Team with a $10 million fine (a measly amount for a multi-billion dollar organization), deeming the workplace practices “highly unprofessional,” complete with regular bullying, intimidation, and a “general lack of respect in the workplace...both generally and particularly for women.” But despite releasing a 243-page report about Tom Brady’s deflategate, the NFL never released the Washington Football Team’s report, which consisted of hundreds of interviews and over 650,000 emails.
However, these women, who have been unimaginably brave and dogged in giving their testimony, will not be silenced by a $10 million fine and a new brand identity. The Commanders, as the team is now known, may have moved on internally, but these women are indicating that they refuse to rest until the NFL promises that not one more woman will be harassed, bullied, or assaulted at work.
The NFL won’t make that promise. The structure of the entire organization means that league commissioner Roger Goodell answers to his boy’s club of billionaires, rather than to the women whose livelihoods and safety depend on him taking his buddies to task. Until Goodell holds every single one of his bad actors accountable, including Snyder, women across the league will continue to be stripped of their right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender, and not to be sexually violated by their superiors.
So I’ll raise my voice alongside these survivors and demand, again: Release the fucking report.