N.F.L. Fines Washington Football Team $10 Million
The NFL announced Thursday that the Washington football team would pay the league $ 10 million in fines after a year-long investigation into reports of the club’s widespread culture of sexual harassment perpetuated by managers and officers belonging to Daniel Snyder. The team must also reimburse the league for the cost of the investigation.
Snyder will retire from the club’s day-to-day business operations until at least mid-October, ceding that control to his wife and new co-CEO Tanya Snyder. Daniel Snyder, however, will attend matches and continue to work on the search for a new team name and stadium. Vestry Laight, a company that works with companies to tackle misconduct, which has already been selected by the team, will provide the league with updates on the team’s human resources practices for the next two years.
Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, “concluded that for many years the work environment for the Washington football team, both in general and in particular for women, was very unprofessional.” the NFL said in a statement. “Harassment and bullying occurred frequently and many described the culture as a culture of fear, and many employees reported experiencing sexual harassment and a general lack of respect at work. “
The penalties are among the most severe imposed on an NFL team and conclude an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by men at the team’s front office dating back to 2004. Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer based Washington, who led the investigation, shared his findings in an oral presentation that served as the basis for the league’s decision to penalize the team.
“We are incredibly remorseful and incredibly sorry, and we want everyone to be treated with dignity, respect and professionalism,” Daniel Snyder said in an interview on Wednesday.
“I am mortified to think this is happening in our building and in our business,” added Tanya Snyder.
Nearly 150 current and former employees of the football club were interviewed as part of Wilkinson’s investigation into reports of wrongdoing that were detailed in several Washington Post articles last year, as well as reports in the New York Times in 2018 on cheerleader abuse. In addition to several incidents of improper treatment of office workers and cheerleaders by men employed by the franchise, The Post reported that two women accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating back to 2004. He denied these allegations.
Snyder also struck a financial deal in 2009 with a former executive who accused him of sexual misconduct while on a private jet trip. He denied any wrongdoing.
The NFL has only released a brief summary of the team’s toxic internal culture, not a full account of the allegations, so it’s not clear how far the dysfunction has gone.
Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special investigative adviser, said Wilkinson was not asked to verify the accuracy of the allegations or produce a written report of his findings in order to preserve the anonymity of witnesses .
“We thought it was better because of the sensitivity of the allegations and the confidentiality claims,” said Friel, adding that a written report could have revealed the identities of some of the employees.
Snyder admitted he had been too lax in his management of the team over the years, leaving much of the day-to-day management of the club to Bruce Allen, the former team president who was fired in late 2019. after a decade. at work.
“I appreciate the people who have come forward and intend to fully implement all of the recommendations from the investigation,” Daniel Snyder said in a statement on Thursday.
Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys who represent 40 former employees of the team, said Wilkinson’s investigation “corroborated our clients’ allegations of widespread harassment, misogyny and abuse.” They said the NFL was protecting Snyder by ignoring their requests to make Wilkinson’s findings public. The $ 10 million fine, they added, “is like money” for the club.
“The NFL has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that they don’t care about them or credit their experiences,” they said in a statement. “Female fans and goodwill fans everywhere, take note. “
The allegations of widespread harassment within the Washington franchise have been extremely embarrassing to the league, which over the past two decades has gained a reputation for failing to adequately reprimand players, coaches, staff and others. team owners accused of harassing or assaulting women.
The team also decided to drop their nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from people who saw it as a racist insult against Native Americans and threats from big companies to end sponsorships. The team is reviewing new names and logos.
Over the past year, Snyder has also publicly wrestled with three longtime shareholders. Their brawl in the council chamber included dueling prosecutions, accusations of smear campaigns and intimidation.
Months before the investigation into the team’s leadership and the conduct of its employees ended, league owners approved Snyder by unanimously voting to allow him to add $ 450 million in new debt so he could buy the 40 percent of the team that he and his loved ones didn’t already own.
The fine imposed on the Washington franchise for failing to properly manage its staff is the first financial penalty imposed on a team in a sexual harassment case since Jerry Richardson was fined $ 2.75 million for making racist comments and sexually harassing women on his staff while owning the Carolina Panthers. The league fined Richardson after making a deal to sell the team in 2018 for $ 2.2 billion.
Snyder’s penalty by the NFL failed to suspend him. Only a handful of owners have been suspended, and usually because they have been personally accused of crimes. Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers was suspended for a year and fined $ 1 million after pleading guilty to one count of failing to report an alleged extortion attempt by the then governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards.
Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was suspended for six games and fined $ 500,000 after pleading guilty to one count of drunk driving following his arrest after a road check in 2014.
After the sexual harassment allegations became public last summer, Snyder fired nearly all front office executives. He tried to rekindle the club’s ragged image by hiring new executives, including Jason Wright, the first president of the black NFL team, and several women. A mixed dance team will perform on match days, replacing the cheerleading program, which had been overseen by one of the since-dismissed executives who had been accused of sexual harassment.
Snyder said he would adopt the recommendations made by Wilkinson, which include the detailed development of protocols allowing “victims to report anonymously and without fear of reprisal” any misconduct and the implementation of regular training seminars against it. bullying, discrimination and harassment.
Fatima Goss Graves, executive director of the National Women’s Law Center, said none of the recommendations can bring about change without the release of the investigation findings.
“There is no reason to impose a large fine without explaining in detail why,” she said. “It’s hard to have meaningful accountability without transparency when allegations go to the top of the organization.”
Kim Gandy, former executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and former adviser to the league, questioned whether $ 10 million was big enough.
“The fine is only 2% of last year’s earnings and less than three-tenths of 1% of the team’s value,” she said.
In this week’s interview, Snyder said he and his wife were left with just a few dozen options for new names for the team and that a location for a new stadium would be chosen in about six months.
Despite his rebuke from the Washington team, the league as a whole continues to be plagued by allegations of harassment, not only in owner circles, but among players and coaches. “We will be reviewing our own policies and practices,” the league said Thursday.
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