Former Washington Football Team cheerleaders aren’t backing down in their quest for transparency surrounding the NFL’s investigation into the franchise’s workplace culture.
No written reports was filed to the league, which has declined to meet with the cheerleaders regarding their allegations that WFT executives, including owner Daniel Snyder, secretly shared inappropriate photos of squad members via email.
“I gave 14 years of my life to the WFT, and I couldn’t even get a written report,” Melanie Coburn, a former cheerleader who became the squad’s marketing director, wrote in a graphic op-ed for USA Today on Friday.
“We feel invisible. Deflated. Marginalized. Diminished.”
Coburn specifically pointed to videos taken of cheerleaders in the nude, which one employee told the Washington Post was made for Daniel Snyder, a claim he denies.
“We experienced decades of mistreatment, harassment, belittlement and abuse,” Coburn wrote.
On Thursday, attorney Lisa Banks, who represents 40 ex-WFT employees, told USA Today that Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, did not agree to a meeting request with former female WFT staffers.
The NFL reopened the WFT investigation over the summer to review 650,000 emails. Just a handful of emails showed enough for a media firestorm to ensue.
Earlier this week, the New York Times published emails from the investigation that exposed Raiders head coach Gruden for using racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Gruden resigned from his position Monday, hours after the report went public.
“Where are the other 649,995 emails?” Coburn asked in her op-ed. “What about those from Snyder and former team general counsel Dave Donovan concerning the $1.6 million sexual assault settlement a female employee received in 2009? What about the email I wrote to human resources in October 2005 concerning harassment from a football player (which was disregarded)?”
Coburn also condemned Snyder’s wife, Tanya, who was named co-CEO of the WFT in July when it was fined $10 million as a result of the workplace investigation. Findings in the review, which were distributed orally by the NFL’s independent counsel Beth Wilkinson, included discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, and demeaning language, according to the league.
“Snyder later came out with a statement saying that they’ve ‘apologized numerous times’ (not true), and that the comments were ‘selectively quoted and taken out of context.’ She belittled us and lied,” Coburn wrote about Tanya Snyder.
Coburn created a petition in February aimed at the NFL and WFT release the finding of the investigation, and alleged that team attorneys offered her and others money to sign a non-disclosure agreement. She noted that they did not accept.
She also pointed to emotional turmoil she experienced living through the NFL’s probe.
“I had many sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days throughout the more than 10-month investigation,” she wrote. “I was intimidated by the power dynamics during my time at the team and have seen the wrath of Snyder.”
Despite that, Coburn still wants to see an end to the “toxic, drama-filled, misogynistic culture that comes from the top.”
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