Washington NFL Team Faces Sexual Harassment Claims from 15 Women, Hire Law Firm

The N.F.L. crew in Washington has employed the regulation agency Wilkinson Walsh to evaluation the claims of 15 girls who, in an article printed by The Washington Post on Thursday, mentioned they have been sexually harassed whereas employed by the crew.

The article detailed quite a few allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and abusive habits by a number of crew executives and soccer personnel over greater than a dozen years. Male executives, the ladies mentioned, commented repeatedly on their appears to be like, despatched them inappropriate textual content messages and pursued undesirable relationships.

After The Post contacted the crew with the allegations, in accordance with the article, its longtime play-by-play announcer, Larry Michael, retired, whereas Alex Santos, the director of professional personnel, and Richard Mann II, the assistant director of professional personnel, have been each fired. All three have been accused of sexual harassment by former crew staff, in accordance with the article.

Michael declined to remark in regards to the motive for his departure earlier than The Post’s article was printed. He didn’t return a name for remark after the allegations in opposition to him have been made public. Santos and Mann couldn’t be reached for remark.

Dennis Greene, the crew’s former head of enterprise operations, was accused of sexually harassing girls on the employees when he inspired them to put on tight skirts and low-cut shirts, and requested them to flirt with individuals who personal luxurious containers at FedEx Field, the crew’s stadium in Landover, Md.

Greene, who resigned underneath strain in 2018 after 17 years with the crew, had been in command of promoting luxurious suites and oversaw a program involving cheerleaders known as ambassadors, who had been employed to not cheer, however solely for his or her attractiveness. He left the crew in May that yr, the day The New York Times published an investigation into the program. That report described him as examining each ambassador from head to toe as the group stood in an inspection line for him on game days.

Greene also oversaw a 2013 cheerleader calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica. The team collected the women’s passports at the start of that trip, depriving the women of their official identification. Several cheerleaders who were there told The Times that they were forced to act as escorts for male corporate sponsors and luxury box owners invited on the trip. Those sponsors and well-heeled supporters watched as some cheerleaders posed topless for the calendar shoot.

“It’s disheartening, but I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised at all,” said Allison Cassidy, a defense contractor and former team cheerleader who attended the Costa Rica trip. “When I was there, management held this power over you, and it was this abusive power dynamic that made you feel 100% replaceable. Even if we wanted to complain about the harassment, there was no one we could tell without feeling like we’d lose our job.”

Beth Wilkinson, a founding partner of Wilkinson Walsh, confirmed in an email that her firm would conduct “an independent review of the team’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct.”

A N.F.L. spokesman, Brian McCarthy, said the league had no comment about the internal investigation at the team.

In a statement, the team said it “takes issues of employee conduct seriously.” It continued: “While we do not speak to specific employee situations publicly, when new allegations of conduct are brought forward that are contrary to these policies, we address them promptly.”

The decision to begin an internal investigation comes at a turbulent time for the franchise, which has been embroiled in a public controversy over the team’s name and has had numerous staff members depart over the past year.

Under pressure from several of its largest corporate sponsors, the team said Monday that it would drop its logo and the name “Redskins,” an about-face by the team owner, Daniel Snyder, who for decades said he would never change the name, which has long been considered a racial slur by many.

Fred Smith, the chairman of FedEx and a minority shareholder of the football team, and two other shareholders have been trying to sell their stakes in the team, which amount to about 40 percent, for months.

The team is in the process of choosing a new name and logo.

Several front office executives have left or been dismissed from the team in the past year, some of whom were not accused of harassment in the article.

Rivera also brought in Rob Rogers, who spent 25 years working on salary cap-related issues and contracts with the Panthers organization, to replace Schaffer.

Snyder has not hired a new team president or general manager.

It is unclear how long the law firm’s investigation will take.Wilkinson Walsh has represented the N.F.L. in a lawsuit brought by DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscribers, and before founding the firm, Beth Wilkinson represented the league in the extensive concussion lawsuit.

ESPN first reported that Washington’s N.F.L. team had hired the firm.

In response to The Times’s report on the cheerleaders, the Washington team denied any wrongdoing, but still conducted a three-month investigation into its cheerleading program after Greene resigned. A team spokesman said substantial changes to the program followed, including the organization no longer inviting sponsors on calendar shoots, and cheerleaders no longer being assigned to work at private events.

The last team to confirm it was undergoing a major internal review was the Carolina Panthers. In 2017, when allegations of sexual harassment were made against Jerry Richardson, the club’s founding owner, the team hired Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff and one of the team’s minority shareholders, to lead an investigation into the claims. The league stepped in and hired a different law firm to take over, and Richardson sold the team the next year.

Last month the Panthers took down a statue of Richardson that was outside its stadium, saying they were worried protesters against racism and police brutality would try to topple it.

Former Washington players were not eager to talk about the culture of the club. Josh Norman, a cornerback now with the Buffalo Bills after spending the past four seasons in Washington, sent a cryptic message on Twitter on Thursday that seemed to reference the events surrounding his old team.

“Look Don’t ask me NO QUESTIONS!” Norman wrote. “But I will say this, what goes around comes around. What’s done in the dark will surely come to the Light!”

Source link Nytimes.com

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