Ex-WFT staffers to meet with House committee

Former Washington Football Team employees will share their allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse with members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Feb. 3 in what is being called a “roundtable” discussion, the committee announced Thursday morning.

Former employees who plan to participate include Emily Applegate, the team’s former marketing coordinator and ticket sales representative; Melanie Coburn, a former cheerleader and former director of marketing; Rachel Engleson, a former intern who rose to director of marketing and client relations; Ana Nunez, former coordinator of business development and client services; and Brad Baker, a former video production manager.

“Our clients look forward to sharing their experiences directly with the committee,” Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent 40 former Washington employees, said in a statement. “Critical questions need to be asked and answered to WFT’s pervasive culture of sexual harassment and retaliation, and the NFL’s decision to allow owner Daniel Snyder to consolidate his power and ownership interest rather than take appropriate disciplinary action against him.”

Committee chair Rep. Carol Maloney, D-N.Y., will lead the roundtable discussion and will give all members of the committee who want to participate a chance to question the former employees.

“For more than twenty years, employees of the Washington Football Team were subjected to sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and other misconduct,” Maloney said in a statement. “It is becoming increasingly clear that not only did the team fail to protect employees, but the NFL went to great lengths to prevent the truth about this toxic work environment from coming to light. The NFL’s decision to cover up these abuses raises serious questions about its commitment to setting workplace standards that keep employees safe. I commend these victims for their bravery in coming forward to share their stories.”

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the committee, told ESPN in a statement that the roundtable was a “misuse of this Committee’s resources” by Democrats.

While the meeting will be held in a traditional hearing room and livestreamed via YouTube and on the committee’s website, participants will not be sworn in, according to a committee spokesperson. She confirmed that no one currently with the team or the NFL has been invited to participate.

In a statement to ESPN, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said, “We continue to cooperate with the committee. Out of respect for the ongoing process and the committee, we will decline further comment.”

The roundtable is scheduled for the day after the Washington Football Team plans to announce its new name.

Democrats on the committee told ESPN that they are pursuing the investigation as a case study to inform potential legislative solutions that can protect employees who encounter sexual harassment and discrimination within the workplace. They told ESPN in October that they wanted to make sure the NFL did not cover up information using nondisclosure agreements signed by the former Washington employees.

On July 1, the NFL announced it had fined Washington $10 million for creating a toxic workplace — the result of an investigation after a series of articles in The Washington Post detailing allegations of sexual harassment.

Congress sent a letter to the NFL in October requesting information after emails obtained in that investigation were leaked to the media, leading to the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

Gruden’s emails, sent over a seven-year span to then-Washington president Bruce Allen, included racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language. They also led to renewed calls for the NFL to release the findings of the independent investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace.

In its five-page letter to the NFL, the congressional committee requested a list of documents and answers to questions, which included: the league’s role in Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture; why there was no written report after 150 people were interviewed; and what role the NFL’s general counsel, Jeff Pash, had during the investigation after his tight relationship with Allen was revealed in multiple emails.

The NFL told ESPN in November that it was cooperating with the investigation and continuing to provide the requested documentation.

Allen was fired after the 2019 season. Others in the organization who had been accused of sexual harassment or contributing to the toxic workplace have been fired or have retired.

Some Democrats on the oversight committee have indicated an interest in Snyder’s role within the overall workplace culture of his organization.

The roundtable discussion, they told ESPN, is a continuing step in the committee’s investigation and not the end of the inquiry.

“Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said in a statement. “No person deserves to be harassed or abused at work, and this Committee will do everything in its power to protect employees at the WFT and beyond.”

Share this post