Former Washington Football Team employees share stories of harassment and abuse A day after the Washington Football Team unveiled its new name, former employees appeared on Capitol Hill to share stories of workplace harassment, including a new allegation against Snyder himself.

Ex-Washington football employee brings new harassment claim against owner Dan Snyder

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1077636343/1078030938" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been quite a week for the Washington Football Team. Just yesterday, it unveiled its new name.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We are...

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: The Commanders.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: But today on Capitol Hill, the spotlight was on the team's troubled past.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MELANIE COBURN: The culture and environment in those offices was deplorable, like a frat party run by a billionaire who knew no boundaries.

SHAPIRO: Six former employees of the team shared stories of workplace sexual harassment that go back decades, including a new claim against team owner Dan Snyder himself. NPR's Andrea Hsu reports.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: The stories were emotional, disturbing, all of them about the toxic workplace culture at the Washington Football Team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANA NUNEZ: I won't describe every instance of sexual harassment I experienced during my time there because it was almost a part of my everyday experience.

RACHEL ENGLESON: It was just a pervasive part of the culture and an unavoidable rite of passage being a woman who worked there.

HSU: That's Rachel Engleson, who started as an intern and worked her way up to marketing director, and before her, Ana Nunez, who worked in business development. They spoke at a roundtable hosted by the House Oversight Committee.

Perhaps the most explosive account came from Tiffani Johnston. She's a former cheerleader and marketing manager who brought new allegations of harassment against longtime team owner Dan Snyder.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIFFANI JOHNSTON: I learned that placing me strategically by the owner at a work dinner was not for me to discuss business, but to allow him, Dan Snyder, to place his hand on my thigh under the table.

HSU: Until she removed it. She was 24 years old at the time. Later that evening, she told lawmakers she awkwardly laughed as Snyder, with his hand on her lower back now, pushed her aggressively toward his limo and encouraged her to get in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHNSTON: I learned that the only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and stopped pushing me towards his limo was because his attorney intervened and said, Dan, Dan, this is a bad idea, a very bad idea, Dan.

HSU: The next day, a senior coworker told her not to tell anybody about what had happened. In a statement, Snyder called the allegations leveled against him personally outright lies, even as he apologized for misconduct throughout the organization he owns. He pointed to the changes made over the past 18 months that he says have vastly improved the team's culture.

Now, there has already been an investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington football team, sparked by reporting in The Washington Post. The NFL fined the team $10 million last year after concluding there was bullying and intimidation and that ownership and senior management paid little or no attention. But that investigation produced no written report. Melanie Coburn, a former cheerleader and marketing director, spoke about that today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COBURN: Ten months, more than 120 witnesses and nothing.

HSU: The NFL has defended its decision not to release its findings. Here's NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell from last fall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER GOODELL: We're very conscious of making sure that we're protecting those who came forward. They were incredibly brave, incredibly open.

HSU: But on the Hill today, a different view.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ENGLESON: Let's be very clear. The people that I know that participated in this investigation wanted and expected a report.

HSU: That was former marketing director Engleson again. Meanwhile, Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi went as far as suggesting there was collusion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Goodell and Mr. Snyder worked together to make sure the public never heard the full story.

HSU: The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Today's roundtable was part of the Democrats' push for legislation that would hold employers accountable for workplace harassment and misconduct. The accounts from the six former employees show just how much work remains to be done.

Andrea Hsu, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK'S "COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS")

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.