Suddenly, Dan Snyder’s worries over his team’s name might look like his second-worst problem. Rumors had swirled for days if not weeks that the Washington Post had a #MeToo story percolating about the Redskins, and that it would implicate executives on the team. It would hardly be the first such story involving Snyder’s organization; two years ago, Snyder fired business-ops president Dennis Greene for “pimping out” the team’s cheerleaders to high-rolling fans.
The story finally dropped last night, and it’s pretty bad. More than a dozen women describe a workplace that more resembles Mad Men than a modern office. The only good news for Snyder is that no one is accusing him personally of harassing behavior, but it suuuuure looks like it didn’t bother Snyder either:
Among the men accused of harassment and verbal abuse are three former members of Snyder’s inner circle and two longtime members of the personnel department:
- [Larry] Michael, senior vice president of content and “the voice of the Washington Redskins.” Seven former employees said Michael routinely discussed the physical appearance of female colleagues in sexual and disparaging overtones. In 2018, Michael was caught on a “hot mic” speaking about the attractiveness of a college-aged intern, according to six former employees who heard the recording. Michael declined an interview request and retired Wednesday.
- [Alex] Santos, the club’s director of pro personnel, who was accused by six former employees and two reporters who covered the team of making inappropriate remarks about their bodies and asking them whether they were romantically interested in him. In 2019, Santos was the subject of an internal investigation after Rhiannon Walker, a reporter for the Athletic, informed club management Santos had pinched her, told her she had “an ass like a wagon” and repeatedly asked her to date him, Walker said in an interview with The Post. Nora Princiotti, a reporter for the Ringer who formerly covered the team, also said in an interview that she was harassed by Santos. Santos, who was fired this past week, declined to comment.
- Richard Mann II, assistant director of pro personnel, who in one text message obtained by the The Post told a female employee he and his colleagues debated whether her breasts had been surgically enhanced and in another text message told another female employee to expect an “inappropriate hug … And don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else.” Mann, who also was fired last week, declined to comment.
Snyder had caught wind of the story earlier and had already begun to clean house. Michael and Santos got the boot earlier this week; Greene got fired over the cheerleader incident. Snyder also announced that he would hire an outside attorney to lead an investigation to clean up the workplace environment, a rather late move considering what had happened with Greene earlier.
However, here’s what Snyder didn’t do in response to the allegations, emphasis mine:
Applegate is one of 15 former female Redskins employees who told The Washington Post they were sexually harassed during their time at the club. The other 14 women spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of litigation because some signed nondisclosure agreements with the team that threaten legal retribution if they speak negatively about the club. The team declined a request from The Post to release former female employees from these agreements so they could speak on the record without fear of legal reprisal. This story involved interviews with more than 40 current and former employees and a review of text messages and internal company documents.
People and organizations accused of harassment should get the benefit of the doubt, legally speaking, especially when those accusations are anonymous. However, it’s a little tougher to extend that courtesy when the accused clings to NDAs. Arguably, waiving an NDA would release both parties, so the team could also respond specifically to allegations raised by its employees. If the team sees that bilateral exchange as a losing proposition, perhaps they shouldn’t expect too much sympathy from observers — especially since Snyder hired DC attorney Beth Wilkinson in part to “help the team set new employee standards for the future.” That sounds like a tacit admission that the old standards might not have been defensible, no? The firings already under way don’t help with that impression either.
Maybe this is why Snyder’s partners are looking for a way out. Almost two weeks ago, their unhappiness with Snyder had them making arrangements to put the minority stake in the team up for sale:
The three minority owners of the Washington Redskins are attempting to sell their stakes in the NFL franchise, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations.
According to one of those people, the owners — Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith — hired an investment banking firm to conduct the search for potential buyers, in large part because they are “not happy being a partner” of majority owner Daniel Snyder. …
Among them, they represent roughly 40 percent of ownership in the Redskins. They are also the only members of the team’s ownership group other than Snyder, his mother and his sister.
The NFL might want to sit down with them now and cut a deal to replace Snyder instead. With the value of the now-nameless team dropping, maybe they could buy a controlling interest on the cheap and eject all of Snyder’s execs, and then field a team on and off the field that wouldn’t be such an embarrassment.