Fifteen women who were employed by Washington's NFL franchise describe sexual harassment and verbal abuse by current and former team employees, according to a wide-ranging report from Will Hobson and Liz Clarke of The Washington Post.
The report describes a workplace culture that permitted—and frequently condoned—unwanted sexual advances and other harassment.
Of the 15 former employees who spoke to the Post, all but one—Emily Applegate—spoke on the condition of anonymity. Applegate began working for the franchise in 2014, and says she routinely experienced and observed verbal abuse and harassment within months of joining the team, including being asked to wear tight and revealing clothing and to flirt with clients to close sales deals.
In the past week, three team employees abruptly parted ways with the organization after the Post presented its findings to the organization.
Two of those employees are radio broadcaster Larry Michael and director of pro personnel Alex Santos. Michael, seven former employees said, regularly commented on his female colleagues' physical appearance with sexual overtones. Six former employees say Michael was overheard on a "hot mic" in 2018 remarking on the attractiveness of a college-aged intern.
Michael announced his retirement Wednesday, offering no reason for his decision but expressing gratitude to team owner Dan Snyder.
In the Post's report, six former employees and two reporters who covered the team said Santos made inappropriate comments and romantic overtures. He was the subject of an internal investigation after Rhiannon Walker, a reporter for The Athletic, told Washington management that Santos had pinched her in public, asked whether she would date him and made inappropriate remarks about her appearance.
Santos and assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II were fired earlier this week. Santos had held his position since 2014, and first joined Washington as a pro personnel assistant in 2006. The team declined to comment on the firings, according to The Post's Les Carpenter.
Snyder addressed The Post's story on Friday, noting the behavior described "has no place in our franchise or society.
"This story has strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team, a process that began with the hiring of Coach Rivera," Snyder said in a statement. "Beth Wilkinson and her firm are empowered to do a full, unbiased investigation. ...Upon completion of her work, we will institute new policies and procedures."
According to The Washington Post, Snyder has not been accused of acting inappropriately with female employees. But the owner is characterized as fostering a "sophomoric culture" in which verbal abuse and humiliation was widely tolerated. He also drew criticism for Washington's lack of a robust human resource staff: The team has one full-time HR employee responsible for more than 220 full-time employees.
Washington coach Ron Rivera, who was hired this offseason, spoke out after the report emerged and said he will not tolerate misconduct.
"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 statement, according to The Athletic's Ben Standig. "Plus my daughter works for the team and I sure as hell am not going to allow any of this!
"Dan Snyder here brought me to change culture and create an environment of inclusion among employees. I believe everyone that works for this franchise has a vested interest in our success."
Snyder had not released his own statement as of Thursday night.
The Post's investigation comes just days after the franchise announced it would change its name.