A new report from the Washington Post on Wednesday revealed more disturbing sexual harassment allegations from 25 former female employees of the Washington Football Team.
Five weeks ago, the Post published sexual harassment allegations from 17 different current and former female Washington Football Team employees. In all, 42 total women are alleging that they were sexually harassed by other employees or executives while working for Washington.
These new allegations involve an inappropriate proposition from team owner Dan Snyder, illicit video outtakes from a calendar shoot allegedly edited together for Snyder and other executives, and multiple instances of sexual harassment in the workplace that were grievously mishandled by the team.
Tiffany Bacon Scourby, a former team cheerleader, told the Post about a 2004 encounter with Snyder at Fight Night, the team’s boxing-themed charity event. She and other cheerleaders staffing the event were wearing black bustiers, gold shorts and black fishnet arm stockings, and their job was to dance in the ring and mingle with guests to sell copies of the swimsuit calendar.
At the event, Snyder called Scourby by name and invited her to speak to him. He mentioned that Anthony “Tony” Roberts, his longtime friend and the team’s “official ophthalmologist”, was there. Roberts did Scourby’s LASIK surgery the year before, but Snyder allegedly proposed they engage in something much more intimate.
“We have a hotel room,” Snyder said that 2004 night, according to Scourby. “Why don’t you and Tony go upstairs and get to know each other better?”
Scourby said she laughed sheepishly and waited for a laugh from Snyder that would indicate he was joking. He didn’t laugh, she said.
“Oh, I’m working. Have a great time,” Scourby said she told him before quickly walking back into the crowd.
Scourby told three people about the incident: Donald Wells, the former director of cheerleaders, longtime friend Kristi Kelly, and her former boyfriend, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity. All three confirmed that Scourby told them about the proposition shortly after it happened.
Outtakes from a cheerleader calendar shoot
Brad Baker, a former production manager in the team’s broadcasting department, claims that in 2008, former team play-by-play broadcaster Larry Michael asked him and two others to edit together a video of the “good bits” of the recent cheerleader calendar video shoot in Aruba.
Those outtakes featured the cheerleaders adjusting their bathing suits and revealing their breasts and genitals as they changed positions and moved props for the shoot. Michael, who resigned after the first wave of allegations surfaced, was essentially asking for an uncensored video of team cheerleaders for his personal use.
The other two people Michael allegedly asked to help with this project denied that it ever happened, as did Michael himself. But a former employee turned the 10-minute video over to the Post, and analysis confirmed that the video was created in June 2008 and had not been manipulated since then. They compared it to the promotional video broadcast, and found that it contains shots of the cheerleaders’ breasts and genitals which were censored in the official version.
Another video was allegedly made after a different shoot in 2010 which contained even more footage of partially nude cheerleaders. The unnamed former employee also turned this video over to the Post, and said that they witnessed a producer splicing together footage for the video specifically for Snyder.
The former employee told The Post, “I saved the video because I didn’t think anyone would believe it was real.” This former employee decided to provide the videos to The Post after its July 16 report, out of a desire to see the NFL “hold the team more accountable.”
The cheerleaders interviewed by the Post did not know about the secret uncensored videos until they were told during their interviews. They said they felt shocked, disgusted, violated and nauseous by it. Donald Wells, the former cheerleader director, had a visceral reaction.
Wells, the longtime cheerleader director, was so taken aback by the news of the videos that he cried.
“I worked so hard to protect them,” he said. “They are daughters and wives and mothers. This is disgusting.”
Washington’s code of conduct strictly forbids “unwelcome or unsolicited sexual advances,” but numerous women told the Post that they constantly endured exactly that while they were on the job.
“Things that go on there would never go on in a normal office,” said Michelle Tessier, the team’s public relations director from 2000 to 2004. “Being friendly was taken as an invitation to make comments. I was cornered in offices. … There would be no one else around, and the flirting and the innuendo starts, and they take it too far.”
This behavior wasn’t limited to employees. Interns also experienced unwanted sexual advances and were left with no recourse. Shannon Slate, who was a 22-year-old intern in 2016, was relentlessly pursued by former director of pro scouting Alex Santos, who was fired in July over his involvement in the first set of sexual harassment allegations.
Washington had just one human resources staffer, who reported to chief financial officer Stephen Choi. Slate went to Choi to file a complaint against Santos, but he told her that wasn’t an option.
“He basically said: ‘This is a sports organization; men dominate it,’” Slate recalled. “‘You have two options: Keep your distance from Alex, or you can end the internship early.’ I ended the internship early.”
Will there be an independent investigation?
After the allegations first surfaced in July, Snyder announced that he was hiring D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson to conduct an investigation of Washington’s workplace. Many of the people interviewed for the Post’s story said they hope the NFL takes over the probe.
“An independent investigation is needed,” said Brittany Pareti, a marketing executive who worked in Washington’s community and charitable programs from 2007-2012. “We cannot trust a report from this organization to be unbiased.”
These new accusations now directly involve Snyder, and include serious violations of personal privacy. Snyder isn’t conducting the investigation, but he chose the person to run it. Unless the report of the investigation is released directly to the public, without any input or massaging from Snyder or anyone else from the Washington team, how can anyone trust it?
The NFL launched an independent investigation on Wednesday afternoon, and commissioner Roger Goodell condemned the behavior detailed in the story.
The Washington Football Team released a statement on Wednesday night, too, and Snyder took “full responsibility” for the accusations though denied knowing about them.
The independent investigation is the only way to ensure that Snyder has no say in how the investigation goes. He bears ultimate responsibility for the culture of the organization and everything that’s happened, including his own involvement in the allegations, but there’s almost no chance he takes responsibility for any of it — unless the NFL makes him.
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