The NFL has fined the Washington Football Team $10 million after an investigation into the franchise's workplace culture, the league announced Thursday.
The investigation came after last year's Washington Post report spotlighting 15 former female employees of the team describing their experiences with sexual harassment within the organization. The report provided detailed incidents of female employees were forced to engage in sexual advancements and disrespectful comments by team employees.
In addition, WFT cheerleaders claimed to have been secretly videotaped while getting undressed, and later reached a settlement with the team. Dan Snyder, co-owner and CEO of the WFT, initially brought in attorney Beth Wilkinson to conduct a team investigation in July 2020. However, the investigation was later turned over to the NFL.
Wilkinson conducted an independent investigation with the NFL to examine allegations of a hostile workplace culture, bullying and harassment, and to provide recommendations on remedial measures for the team. However, she was not tasked with confirming or rejecting any particular allegation of inappropriate conduct, according to the league's report.
After interviewing Dan Snyder twice and nearly 150 current or former WFT employees, Wilkinson found that WFT's workplace—especially for women —was highly unprofessional. Bullying and intimidation took place, according to the league's report, and several female employees experienced sexual harassment.
The report found that ownership and senior management failed to pay close attention to the sexual harassment and disrespectful behavior in the workplace.
Snyder said in a team statement released Thursday that he is "ultimately responsible" for the team's workplace culture.
"I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here," Snyder said in the statement. "I'm truly sorry for that. I can't turn back the clock but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I are the owners of the team."
USA TODAY reported that attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz did not like the way the NFL handled the ruling and the process of the investigation, including the league not requiring Wilkinson to issue a written report.
"In response to a year-long investigation in which more than 100 witnesses were interviewed, and which we believe substantiated our clients' allegations of pervasive harassment, misogyny and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the NFL has chosen to protect owner Dan Snyder," Banks and Katz said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Ignoring our requests that it make the report prepared by Beth Wilkinson public, the NFL has chosen instead to receive only an oral report of the findings and to fine owner Dan Snyder what amount to pocket change.
"This is truly outrageous, and is a slap in the face to hundreds of women and former employees who came forward in good faith and at great personal risk to report a culture of abuse at all levels of the Team, including by Snyder himself. The NFL has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that it does not care about them or credit their experiences. Female fans, and fans of goodwill everywhere, take note."
While the team has made significant organizational changes in the last 18 months, notably hiring head coach Ron Rivera and diversifying its executive team—including team president Jason Wright and general manager Martin Mayhew—Wilkinson made 10 recommendations to further improve and sustain the team's workplace culture improvements over the past year.
Those recommendations include:
- Protocols for reporting harassment
- A disciplinary action plan
- Regular culture surveys
- Regular trainings
- More diverse workforce
- Establish clear lines of authority
- Expand and empower HR and legal
- Develop formal onboarding, performance management and compensation system, and exit interview process
- Protect the cheerleading team
- Regular assessment of policies
The team is tasked with semi-annual reporting assessments through July 31, 2023.
Tanya Snyder, owner Dan Snyder's wife and the franchise's new co-CEO, will assume control of the organization's day-to-day operations, including representing the team at league meetings. Dan Snyder, for the time being, will focus on the team's plan for a new stadium. All senior-level team executives—including the Snyders—will go through comprehensive workplace training to address issues including diversity, harassment and unconscious bias.
"Over the past 18 months, Dan and Tanya have recognized the need for change and have undertaken important steps to make the workplace comfortable and dignified for all employees, and those changes, if sustained and built upon, should allow the club to achieve its goal of having a truly first-tier workplace," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "I truly appreciate their commitment to fully implement each of the below ten recommendations, but the league also must ensure accountability for past deficiencies and for living up to current and future commitments."
The $10 million fine will help support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related initiatives. Funds from the fine will also fund programs directed at improving the workplace for women and other underrepresented groups and training and development programs throughout the league.
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