N.F.L. Penalizes Washington Football Team Amid Harassment Allegations

by Msnbctv news staff

The N.F.L. on Thursday announced that the Washington Football Team would pay a $10 million fine to the league after a yearlong investigation into reports of the club’s rampant culture of sexual harassment perpetuated by managers and executives under the ownership of Daniel Snyder. The team also must reimburse the league for the cost of the investigation.

Snyder also will temporarily remove himself from day-to-day business operations of the club, ceding that control to his wife and new co-chief executive, Tanya Snyder. Daniel Snyder, though, will attend games, and continue to work on long-term projects, including searching for a new team name and new stadium. Vestry Laight, a firm that works with companies to address misconduct that was already retained by the team, will also provide the league with periodic updates on the team’s human resources practices for the next two years.

Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, “concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional,” the league said in a statement. “Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.”

The penalties are some of the harshest levied against an N.F.L. team and conclude an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by men in the team’s front office dating to 2004. Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer based in Washington who led the investigation, compiled a lengthy, detailed report that formed the basis of the league’s decision to penalize the team.

“We are incredibly remorseful and incredibly sorry and we want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect and professionalism,” Snyder said in an interview on Wednesday in New York.

“I’m mortified to think that’s happening in our building and our business,” Tanya Snyder added.

Nearly 150 current and former employees of the football club were interviewed as part of Wilkinson’s investigation into reports of misdeeds that were detailed in several Washington Post articles last year. In addition to several incidents of inappropriate treatment of female office workers and cheerleaders by men employed by the franchise, The Post also reported that two women had accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating to 2004. He has denied those allegations.

The N.F.L. released only a brief summary of the team’s toxic internal culture, not a full report, so it is unclear how deep the dysfunction went.

Separately, Snyder reached a financial settlement in 2009 with a female former executive who had accused him of sexual misconduct during a trip on a private jet.

Snyder denied any wrongdoing, though he has conceded that he had been too lax in his management of the team over the years, leaving much of the day-to-day running of the club to Bruce Allen, the former team president who was dismissed at the end of 2019 after a decade on the job.

“I appreciate the people who came forward and intend fully to implement all of the recommendations coming out of the investigation,” Snyder said in a statement released Thursday.

The allegations of widespread harassment within the Washington franchise have been acutely embarrassing for the league, which during the past two decades gained a reputation that it had failed to adequately reprimand players, coaches, staff and even team owners who harass or assault women.

The team also decided to drop its nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from people who considered it a racist slur against Native Americans and threats from major corporations to end sponsorships. The team is reviewing new names and logos.

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