Washington NFL Team Confronts Harassment Claims
Amid the crisis over its name change, the Washington, D.C., NFL team formerly known as the Redskins is facing sex-harassment accusations similar to those made in 2018 against the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The D.C. team’s response has been lackluster and missing some important elements.
On July 16, The Washington Post reported that 15 women who formerly worked for the team said they were sexually harassed during their employment. All but one spoke on condition of anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements they signed. The Post said the team declined to release them from those pacts so they could speak freely (a mistake in this day and age).
Owner Dan Snyder, who is not implicated in the behavior, refused to speak for the story. The team provided a statement to the Post in which it said it hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson and her firm, Wilkinson Walsh, to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. “The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously,” the team said, according to the Post.
On July 17, Snyder put out a statement of his own. As commenters noted, he didn’t say much. “The behavior described in yesterday’s Washington Post article has no place in our franchise or society,” he wrote. “This story has strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team.”
The behavior described in yesterday’s Washington Post article has no place in our franchise or society.
— Washington, D.C., NFL team owner Dan Snyder
Snyder said that on completion of the independent investigation, the team would implement changes suggested by Wilkinson. This was a mistake. Shortcomings in the team’s operations are apparent — including allegedly a too-small human-resources department. Snyder should address these problems now, in part so that when the law firm’s recommendations are announced, he can point out that many of them have already been implemented.
Snyder and his wife reportedly also wrote a memo to team employees.
Snyder received unsolicited advice from billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks, which had its own sex-harassment crisis after a 2018 Sports Illustrated exposé. (For comparison, the Dallas team released a statement on the matter before the SI piece even came out.)
Cuban said on SiriuxXM Radio that Snyder must come out now to recognize, and apologize for, mistakes he’s made, according to a July 19 New York Post story. “That’s painful,” Cuban said. “I made a lot of mistakes. And that’s the only way this is going to get resolved.”
Cuban, who said he cried when Sports Illustrated published its story, gave $10 million to women’s groups and apologized publicly (the NBA didn’t punish Cuban but said he should have paid more attention to his team’s culture, according to the New York Post).
The sex-harassment crisis comes on the heels of the Washington team dealing with its name change. After many years of criticism from Native Americans and others, the team announced July 13 it would retire the Redskins name and logo.
It has yet to choose a new moniker.
Photo Credit: Washington Football Team
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