Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder said Friday he is committed to improving the culture inside the team after allegations of sexual harassment, while the league said it will wait for a law firm’s review before taking action.
The allegations of sexual harassment and toxic workplace culture spanning from 2006 to 2019 were raised by 15 women, all but one of whom spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, with some having signed nondisclosure agreements with the team.
“The behavior described in yesterday’s Washington Post article has no place in our franchise or society,” Snyder said in a statement Friday. “This story has strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team.”
A letter, which was obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, was signed by Snyder and his wife Tanya and sent Friday night to each member of the organization. In it, the Snyders apologized on behalf of the team and asked for everybody’s help “to build a better organizational culture.”
“We need to get better and the time is now,” the letter from the Snyders said.
Here’s the letter that Dan and Tanya Snyder emailed tonight to each member of their organization, per source: pic.twitter.com/R7N65ZM8cs
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 17, 2020
Snyder hired the District of Columbia law firm Wilkinson Walsh to conduct an independent review of team policies, culture and allegations of workplace misconduct. The NFL said in a statement it will meet with lawyers after the investigation is complete and will act based on the findings.
“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,” the league said. “Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment.”
Snyder also pledged to make organizational changes.
“Beth Wilkinson and her firm are empowered to do a full, unbiased investigation and make any and all requisite recommendations,” Snyder said. “Upon completion of her work, we will institute new policies and procedures and strengthen our human resources infrastructure to not only avoid these issues in the future but most importantly create a team culture that is respectful and inclusive of all.”
He said the commitment to establishing a new culture and higher standard began with the hiring of coach Ron Rivera, who also has control of football operations.
“[The] 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 said in a text 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!”
The NFL said it expects the team and all employees to be cooperative but that it is not yet conducting its own review of the team.
Director of player personnel Alex Santos, assistant Richard Mann II and longtime broadcaster and senior vice president Larry Michael are no longer with the team. Michael announced Wednesday he was retiring after 16 years.
Santos, who was fired this week, is accused by six former employees and two reporters who covered the team of commenting about their bodies and making unwelcome overtures, according to the Post.
In text messages obtained by the Post, Mann, also fired within the past week, shared with a female employee his conversation with co-workers about whether she had undergone breast enhancement surgery.
Seven former employees alleged to the Post that Michael routinely spoke about the physical appearance of female colleagues in a sexual and disparaging manner, including a college-aged intern in a comment that was caught on a “hot mic” in 2018.
Former team business executives Dennis Greene and Mitch Gershman also were mentioned in the Post story.
Greene, who resigned in May 2018 after it was reported that he had sold access to Washington cheerleaders, including attendance at a 2013 calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica, is named in the Post report for having encouraged members of the sales staff to wear revealing clothing and flirt with suite holders.
Emily Applegate, the only former Washington female employee named in the Post report, said Gershman verbally abused her over minor workplace issues and also complimented her body.
The allegations come on the heels of the team’s announcement Monday that it would be retiring its nickname and logo after completing a thorough review that began on July 3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.