Washington Football Team cheerleaders detail abusive workplace, claim they were filmed nude without consent
In a new report from the Washington Post, 25 women detailed instances of sexual harassment while working for the Washington Football Team. Many were reportedly angered by owner Dan Snyder deflecting culpability in a Post report from last month, and described harassment directly at the hands of Snyder. But the culture of intimidation was pervasive enough to infest the entire organization, leaving some women with significant emotional damage and PTSD. As one former employee tells the Post:
“It was like fresh meat to a pack of wolves every time a new pack of interns would come in,” Pareti said. “It was like a frat house, with men lined up in the lobby watching women walk in and out. You constantly felt there were eyes on you.”
One former cheerleader, Tiffany Bacon Scourby, alleges that Snyder suggested she should go to a hotel room with his friend so they “could get to know each other better" after a 2004 fundraising event. Scourby told the team cheerleader director, Donald Wells, about the incident later that night. As he corroborated with the Post, “she was more or less propositioned.”
Numerous former employees outlined a culture of intimidation and unwritten rules surrounding Snyder. Workers are reportedly instructed to always call him “Mr. Snyder” or “sir,” and never look him right in the eyes. Susan Miller, the former president of a Virginia employee referral agency, claims she stopped referring workers to the franchise after numerous complaints from his executive assistants. “He denigrated people. He treated women like servants,” Miller told the Post.
The report largely focuses on a private video filmed during a “Beauties on the Beach” shoot in 2008, which captured behind-the-scenes footage from the team’s cheerleader swimsuit calendar. The video featured unused moments from the shoot when cheerleaders’ nipples were exposed while shuffling props, and focused on a close-up of one cheerleader’s public area only covered in body paint. Larry Michael, the recently ousted senior VP and lead broadcaster, reportedly told staffers on the video team to make the secret tape for Snyder. Michael denied any knowledge of the video, but former producer Brad Baker recalls otherwise:
“Larry said something to the effect of, ‘We have a special project that we need to get done for the owner today: He needs us to get the good bits of the behind-the-scenes video from the cheerleader shoot onto a DVD for him,’” said Baker.
Despite the franchise’s recent attempts at rebranding — through both a baffling temporary team name change and recruiting a number of diverse hires in senior positions — it’s apparent that former employees were unsatisfied by the cosmetic changes. With just one human resources employee who has reported directly to the chief financial officer and decades of fostering an abusive environment, there’s reason to question what accountability will look like under the same leadership that brought them here.