The NFL has fined the Washington Football Team $10 million as a result of the league’s investigation into the team’s workplace culture.
The money “will be used to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics,” the league said.
In addition, Tanya Snyder, who was named the team’s co-CEO this week, will take over the day-to-day duties and represent the franchise at league functions for the next several months. Her husband, Dan Snyder, will focus “on a new stadium plan and other matters,” the NFL said.
All senior executives, including the Snyders, will take part in training in workplace conduct, covering topics such as bullying, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQ+ issues, microaggression and unconscious bias.
“I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of workplace that we had. It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realize the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue. I know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I say it again,” Dan Snyder said in a statement.
“I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here. 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 this team.”
Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent 40 former employees, said in a statement that the NFL chose to “protect owner Dan Snyder” and said the fine amounted to “pocket change.” They had wanted the report to be made public, but attorney Beth Wilkinson, who conducted the investigation, orally submitted her findings and recommendations to the league.
“This is truly outrageous, and is a slap in the face to the 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,” their statement said. “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.”
In a conference call with the media Thursday, Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, said Wilkinson found Washington’s workplace “highly unprofessional.”
“Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear,” Friel said, based on Wilkinson’s report.
She said because of a subpar human resources division, even when reports were made they were “generally not investigated” and led to no meaningful discipline.
“The culture at the club was very toxic and it fell far short of the NFL’s values and we hold ownership to a higher standard,” Friel said, “which is why today’s announcement is not only about accountability for the past but also ensuring the improvements already underway as the club continues in the future.”
She said coach Ron Rivera and team president Jason Wright were highly respected and that, plus a slew of diverse hirings in the past year, led them to believe the organization was making the necessary changes.
Janet Nova, deputy general counsel for media and league business affairs, said Snyder’s decision to step away from day-to-day duties through the fall was a voluntary move.
The team had been under the independent investigation since July 2020, stemming from a number of sexual harassment allegations by previous employees over a 15-year period that were detailed by The Washington Post last summer.
Wilkinson interviewed more than 150 people, mostly current or former employees of the organization, many of whom were granted anonymity. Dan Snyder had released those who spoke with Wilkinson from any confidentiality agreements they had signed with the organization.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional. 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 NFL said in its statement.
The league concluded that the team’s “Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment. This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace.”
Wilkinson made a series of 10 recommendations for the Washington franchise going forward:
1. Develop a formal protocol for reporting allegations of harassment and misconduct;
2. Develop a disciplinary action plan;
3. Conduct anonymous workplace culture and sexual harassment surveys;
4. Hire a third party to provide regular training for all employees on bullying, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct issues;
5. Increase the number of women and minority employees throughout the organization;
6. Implement a clear organizational structure with clear lines of authority;
7. Expand and empower the organization’s in-house human resources and legal departments;
8. Create a formal onboarding process for new hires and a program for regular performance reviews and exit interviews for departing employees;
9. Assign an HR employee to the cheerleading squad or coed dance team;
10. Retain an independent consultant to conduct an annual assessment of employment policies.
The franchise is required to report its progress to the league office in implementing each of these recommendations. The first report is due by July 31. The franchise also must report the results of the surveys and all complaints, including from exit interviews, to the league office.
“I agree with the Commissioner’s decisions in this matter and am committed to implementing his investigation’s important recommendations,” Dan Snyder said in his statement.
In February, the team reached a settlement with its former cheerleaders, who appeared in lewd videos made without their knowledge during swimsuit calendar photo shoots in 2008 and 2010. The franchise also announced that it had paused its cheerleader program amid its rebranding, but the move was not tied to the investigation, multiple sources told ESPN’s John Keim.
The moves the franchise has made to improve its culture over the past 18 months include hiring Rivera as head coach, Wright as the NFL’s first Black team president and Julie Donaldson as the senior vice president of media and the first woman to be part of an NFL team’s radio broadcast. The NFL also said that Petra Pope has replaced the all-female cheerleading squad with “an inclusive, co-ed, diverse, athletic” dance team and that the team will no longer pose for calendars.
“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. 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,” Goodell said in the statement.