15 women allege culture of sexual harassment, abuse with Washington's NFL team in WaPo report

Jason Owens
·6-min read

Fifteen women leveled accusations of a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct that reached upper management with Washington’s NFL team under Daniel Snyder’s ownership in a report published in the Washington Post on Thursday.

Snyder is not accused of harassment. He is accused of fostering a “hostile” work environment. The allegations span from 2006-2019. Snyder purchased the team in 1999. He declined multiple requests for comment, according to the Post.

“I have never been in a more hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment ... and I worked in politics,” former vice president of communications Julia Payne told the Post.

Payne worked for the team in 2003. She was an assistant press secretary for President Bill Clinton.

Emily Applegate, a 31-year-old former marketing coordinator went on the record to detail her accusations, calling working for the team “the most miserable experience of my life.” The other 14 women spoke to the Post anonymously citing fear of legal retribution after some of them signed nondisclosure agreements.

3 recently departed employees named

Among the high-level team employees named in the report were play-by-play man, senior vice president and chief content officer Larry Michael, director of pro personnel Alex Santos and his top scouting assistant Richard Mann II, all of whom left the team in July.

Michael, who had called games on the team’s radio broadcast for 16 years, resigned Wednesday. Santos and Mann were fired last week.

Former president of business operations Dennis Greene and former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman were also named in the report.

Fifteen women leveled accusations of a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct that reached upper management with Washington’s NFL team. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Fifteen women leveled accusations of a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct that reached upper management with Washington’s NFL team. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

‘Relentless sexual harassment and verbal abuse’

The women claimed they were victims of “relentless sexual harassment and verbal abuse,” according to the Post. The media outlet described a bare-bones system for reporting harassment that involved one full-time human resources staffer and no formal reporting process.

In addition to the former employees, two reporters who covered the team accused Santos of sexual harassment. The Athletic’s Rhiannon Walker filed a complaint accusing Santos of pinching her and telling her she has “an ass like a wagon.”

‘Great ass for a little white girl’

Nora Princiotti, a reporter for The Ringer who covered the team for the Washington Times in 2017, told the Post that Santos repeatedly approached her in his SUV while she was walking and commented on her appearance.

“He told me I had a great ass for a little white girl,” Princiotti told the Post. “The general sentiment was that I should wear less clothing.”

She told the Post that a team communications staffer told her she’d gained the nickname “Princihottie” at the team’s headquarters.

In total, six former employees in addition to Princiotti and Walker accused Santos of making inappropriate comments about their bodies or making romantic overtures. Santos, who is married, declined to comment.

Longtime broadcaster was ‘always derogatory’

Michaels was accused of having “a penchant for off-color commentary about female colleagues.”

“It was always objectifying; it was always derogatory,” a male staffer who worked closely with Michael told the Post.

A staffer said the Michael commented on a young female staffer’s “tight ass” during training camp in 2018.

“He said you can’t mess with her, though … because you know she’s f-----g every guy on the team, right?” the staffer told the Post.

The Post describes multiple similar accusations against Michael, who was the subject of a formal complaint in 2018 after being caught on a hot mic commenting on a college intern. Michael also declined to comment.

Team owner Daniel Snyder is accused of fostering a "hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Team owner Daniel Snyder is accused of fostering a "hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

‘I want to squeeze your butt’

The Post published text exchanges from Mann and a pair of former female staffers in which he allegedly referenced a “lame boob” joke, telling a staffer that “real or fake is the debate.” The exchange shows Mann offering to deliver the staffer lunch with the caveat: “If I bring that I want to squeeze your butt. Deal.”

An exchange with another staffer alleges that Mann offered to give a departing staffer an “inappropriate hug” on her last day. “And don’t worry that won’t be a stapler in my pocket,” Mann allegedly wrote.

Mann declined to comment to the Post.

One woman described receiving a warning about a staircase at team headquarters delivered at an “informal, but invaluable, orientation administered privately by veteran female employees.” She described a staircase lined at the top with plexiglass that male staffers would stand under so they could look up women’s skirts. She told the Post of a first-hand experience.

“He even leaned to get a better angle,” the woman said without naming a name. “He wasn’t even trying to hide it.”

Executive in cheerleading scandal named

Greene is accused of encouraging female sales staffers to wear tight skirts and low-cut blouses and flirt with suite holders.

Greene resigned in 2018 after being involved in a scandal with team cheerleaders. Greene was accused of offering suite holders access to cheerleaders on a trip to Costa Rica in exchange for buying suites. Fans were reportedly allowed to watch cheerleaders during a topless photo shoot on that trip in 2013.

Greene declined to comment to the Post.

Applegate accused Gershman of repeatedly berating her over issues like printer malfunctions in addition to making comments on her body.

Gershman denied the accusation.

“I barely even remember who she is,” Gershman told the Post. “I thought the Redskins was a great place to work. … I would apologize to anyone who thought that I was verbally abusive.”

Gershman left the team in 2015.

Longtime team president Bruce Allen was not accused of inappropriate behavior. Applegate believes that he was aware of the culture at team headquarters.

“I would assume Bruce knew because he sat 30 feet away from me … and saw me sobbing at my desk several times every week,” Applegate told the Post.

Allen was fired in December after 10 years with the team.

NFL comments, Rivera vows culture change

The NFL released a statement about the Washington Post’s report on Monday.

First-year head coach Ron Rivera, who was hired after Allen’s dismissal, declined to comment directly on the recent firings that preceded the Post report. He did vow to create a new culture.

“We’re trying to create a new culture here,” Rivera said. “We’re hoping to get people to understand that they need to judge us on where we are and where we’re going as opposed to where we’ve been.”

Rivera is also helping oversee a name change for the franchise announced on Monday.

After the report was published Thursday, the Association for Women in Sports Media saluted “the 15 brave women and numerous other sources who spoke with the Washington Post” while offering its services as a resource to women enduring harassment.

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