For the better part of a week, there have been whispers that something big was coming that would shake the Washington NFL organization to its core, something that goes far beyond their impending name change after corporate sponsors and minority owners threatened to leave.
Reporters in Washington have teased major allegations were coming, and there were some major shakeups within the organization over the week. Longtime radio announcer and the team’s chief content officer and senior VP of video content and TV shows, Larry Michael, announced his retirement after 16 years with the organization on Wednesday, and reports emerged on Thursday that the minority stake holders in the team were pursuing avenues to sell their shares.
Minority shareholders of Washington’s NFL team have hired the investment bank, Moag & Company, to vet buyers and to sell their stake in the team, per a league source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 16, 2020
On Thursday evening, the Washington Post published a bombshell report citing 15 women — including former team employee Emily Applegate, who spoke on the record about her experience — who told the Post they were sexually harassed by members of the organization. There are allegations against Michael and Alex Santos, the team’s director of pro personnel who was fired over the weekend, along with assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II (also fired over the weekend), former president of business operations Dennis Greene, and former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman.
The Post story details numerous accounts of harassment, including women being touched inappropriately, top level executives making inappropriate comments about women’s appearance, and verbal abuse directed towards women. There are screenshots of inappropriate text messages from Mann, with one saying “I’m squeezing your ass… sorry lol,” as well as multiple stories of Santos making sexual comments to a pair of women reporters and commenting on women employees appearance, telling one he wanted to kiss her in the break room.
Team owner Dan Snyder and former team president Bruce Allen were not among those accused of harassment, but they are implicated in helping to create a culture of verbal abuse at an executive level that trickled down to employees, as well as having a human resources department that has only one full-time employee. It is a damning account of a culture of harassment and verbal abuse within the organization, not that dissimilar to the one that began pushing Jerry Richardson out of Carolina, although he was implicated far more heavily than Snyder.
How the league will respond remains to be seen, and per the Post, Snyder and most every other major person with the team declined an initial comment beyond a promise of an internal review of the organization and its policy.