While claiming he takes “full responsibility for the culture of our organization,” Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder called the latest Washington Post story that exposes a toxic and sexual harassment-littered environment within the franchise a “hit job.”
A month after the Washington Post published a story alleging a widespread sexual harassment culture within the organization’s front office, the newspaper came out with a new report Wednesday that alleged, among other issues, employees were instructed to make a lewd video of cheerleaders for Snyder.
Snyder denied knowing anything about the video, which a former employee claimed the broadcast team was ordered to make by Larry Michael, the team’s lead broadcaster and senior vice president who abruptly retired in July before he was named in the initial Washington Post report. The former employee said Michael had them put together revealing outtakes from the cheerleader’s swimsuit calendar shoot in 2008 for Snyder.
“I did not request their creation and I never saw them,” Snyder, in a lengthy statement obtained by ESPN, said of the videos. “After an extensive review of our video archives, we believe these videos to be unauthorized or fraudulent. We requested that the Post provide us with copies of these videos to be forensically evaluated and authenticated, but the Washington Post refused to do so.”
Roger Goodell in a statement said that the league would be launching an investigation.
“We strongly condemn the unprofessional, disturbing and abhorrent behavior and workplace environment alleged in the report which is entirely inconsistent with our standards and has no place in the NFL,” Goodell said.
The Washington Post story also quoted a former Washington cheerleader, Tiffany Bacon Scourby, who said Snyder suggested she meet his close friend in a hotel room so they could “get to know each other” at a charity event in 2004.
“We are disappointed that Ms. Scourby would speak to the newspaper but never bring any of these allegations to management’s attention, particularly since she is still part of our organization as a volunteer with our cheerleaders,” Snyder said. “I want to unequivocally state that this never happened.”
Scourby said she confided in Donald Wells, the cheerleader director, about the conversation, in addition to her boyfriend and a longtime friend, each of whom corroborated the story to the Washington Post.
“There’s a power dynamic, and Dan Snyder looked down on me,” Scourby told the newspaper. “Because he’s powerful and our employer, he thinks he somehow has the right to say these things to us, to make these requests of us, and he doesn’t. It’s disgusting.”
Brad Baker was the former production manager on Michael’s broadcast staff that claims Michael requested the 2008 cheerleader video for Snyder.
“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,’ ” Baker told the Washington Post.
Later that day, Baker said he walked into the editing room and found vice president of production Tim DeLaney and videographer Marc Dress “assembling footage that included multiple shots of cheerleaders’ exposed nipples,” the newspaper reported. DeLaney and Dress disputed the claims.
For Wednesday’s story, the Washington Post spoke to 25 women who said they experienced sexual harassment while working for the team — after 17 others had done so in the initial story in July. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity because they previously signed non-disclosure agreements with the organization or feared reprisal, the newspaper said.
After the first bombshell report, the Washington Football Team said it had hired a law firm to conduct a thorough review of the matter while Snyder tried to distance himself from the allegations. He claimed innocence again on Wednesday but also tried to pick apart the newspaper’s reporting.
“The Washington Post article reads like a ‘hit job’ relying on unnamed sources and allegations that are largely 10 to 20 years old,” Snyder said. “We attempted to engage with the Washington Post to provide them with the facts, but those facts clearly didn’t align with their narrative.”