WFT fined $10M; D. Snyder off day-to-day tasks

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.”

The team had been under an independent investigation, led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, 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.

Janet Nova, the league’s deputy general counsel for media and business affairs, said during a conference call Thursday that Dan Snyder stepping away for this period of time was “voluntary” and not a mandate.

NFL special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel said Wilkinson was not tasked with making any recommendations about Dan Snyder selling the team or being suspended.

“I was addressing the accountability as we relayed it in the release that the commissioner has imposed and which he feels is the best way to address the findings that were communicated to us from the investigation and part of that is to ensure that the cultural changes that have happened over the last 18 months are sustained going forward,” Friel said.

Lawyers representing 40 former Washington employees slammed the NFL for choosing to protect Snyder and ignoring requests to make the report public, calling the fine “pocket change.”

“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,” lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in a statement.

“The NFL has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that it does not care about them or credit their experiences.”

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 organization set out to improve its culture over the past year. The moves it has made include hiring head coach Ron Rivera, Jason 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original article: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/31745729/nfl-fines-washington-football-team-10m-culture-investigation

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