Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder accused of sexual harassment and abuse by six former employees

The allegations were levelled on Thursday at a congressional hearing

<p>Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder watches the New England Patriots play the Washington Redskins during the NFL preseason in 2014.</p>

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder watches the New England Patriots play the Washington Redskins during the NFL preseason in 2014.

Leer en Español

The owner of the Washington Commanders NFL team has been accused of sexual harassment and abuse by six former employees.

The allegations were levelled against Dan Snyder on Thursday during a “hybrid roundtable” hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The accusers included former cheerleaders Melanie Coburn and Tiffani Johnston, former marketing coordinator Emily Applegate, former director of marketing Rachel Engleson, former video production manager Brad Baker and former business development coordinator Ana Nunez.

They told how Mr Snyder allegedly ruled the franchise “by fear”, pressured staff to drink alcohol, hosted prostitutes at parties and engaged in inappropriate touching.

The roundtable was hosted by Rep Carolyn Maloney (D - New York) and Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi (D - Illinois), who joined the accusers in calling on the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, to release a report about the team’s history of sexual harassment and its sexist, hostile workplace culture.

Mr Snyder commissioned an investigation into the team’s workplace environment that was taken over by the NFL. After the investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson’s firm, the league fined Washington $1m and Mr Snyder temporarily ceded day-to-day operations of the team to his wife, Tanya.

But the league did not release any details of the Wilkinson investigation’s findings, and former team employees who spoke on Thursday noted the contrast to the way the NFL handled an investigation into allegations that quarterback Tom Brady deflated footballs.

Mr Krishnamoorthi said in a statement prior to the hearing: "We launched this investigation because the NFL has not been transparent about the workplace misconduct issues it uncovered within [Washington].

"These victims are bravely coming forward with their stories, sharing details of despicable abuse in their workplace.

“Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable."

Ms Johnston, one of the former cheerleaders, told the hearing how Mr Snyder allegedly placed his hand on her inner thigh under the table at a team dinner and tried to coax her into a limo.

Former Washington Commanders employee Ana Nunez breaks describes abuse allegations against team owner Dan Snyder on 3 February 2021

“The next day, I learned when I told a senior co-worker about Dan Snyder’s sexual advance that I should ‘not repeat the story to anyone outside this office door,’” Ms Johnston said. “That was when I also learned there was no one to go to about Dan Snyder’s advance, no path to report the incident.”

The other former cheerleader, Ms Coburn, said Mr Snyder kept tight control over who was on the cheerleading squad and called him: “An NFL owner who hired and fired employees based solely on their looks.”

“It’s despicable,” she added.

Ms Coburn recounted going on an “awards trip” with colleagues to Mr Snyder’s home in Aspen, Colorado, where she claimed a co-worker was pressured to drink despite being a recovering addict.

She said at one point she was told to go to the basement of the home and later learned the men had invited prostitutes upstairs.

Mr Baker, the former video production manager, told how in 2008 Mr Snyder allegedly ordered employees to edit footage of a cheerleader calendar photoshoot into a “Good Bits” video with nude photos of women.

“While passing through the editing suite, I saw several images on both the editing monitor and the monitor of our tape deck that featured the cheerleaders posing for their photoshoot,” Mr Baker recalled. “But it was like outtakes, and their breasts and pubic areas were exposed.

“The video department had been told to edit together lewd footage of the cheerleaders at the request of Dan Snyder.”

Ms Engleson, who joined the franchise as an intern and rose through the ranks to become director of marketing and client relations, said throughout her eight-year tenure sexual harassment “was just a pervasive part of the culture and unavoidable rite of passage being a woman who worked there”.

Ms Nunez, the former business development coordinator, said sexual harassment was “almost a part of my everyday experience” and that when she tried to report being a victim: “No one did anything about it.”

Ms Applegate, the former marketing coordinator, condemned the NFL for a lack of transparency in its investigation into Mr Snyder’s team.

“Two decades of sexual harassment concludes with nothing,” Applegate said. “The NFL is showing us their complete lack of respect for women, for their employees, and for the culture of our country.”

“Roger Goodell has proven once again, he is unequipped to handle important issues within the NFL,” she continued.

“He has mishandled social justice issues, domestic violence issues, and now sexual harassment issues. Worst of all, there have been so many good people that have become collateral damage while these two men cover up two decades of sexual harassment.”

Other former employees aired similar allegations on the Wednesday episode of HBO’s Real Sports Podcast.

Mr Snyder denied all of the claims in a statement through representatives for the team on Thursday.

“I have acknowledged and apologized multiple times in the past for the misconduct which took place at the Team and the harm suffered by some of our valued employees,” he said, according to NBC News. “I apologize again today for this conduct, and fully support the people who have been victimized and have come forward to tell their stories.”

“While past conduct at the Team was unacceptable, the allegations leveled against me personally in today’s roundtable — many of which are well over 13 years old — are outright lies.

“I unequivocally deny having participated in any such conduct, at any time and with respect to any person.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in