More allegations about the toxic, sexist culture around Dan Snyder’s Washington Football Team have emerged, this time pointing to specific incidents involving Snyder and his treatment of women (including implied solicitation of sexual favors for a friend) and the production of X-rated cheerleader videos containing “the good bits” according to a report from The Washington Post.
Women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, which in the past has flown banners calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ouster over football stadiums, said in a statement to Deadspin from executive director Shaunna Thomas, “Enough is enough. Dan Snyder has to go.”
“We will continue demanding accountability from the NFL until leadership both acknowledges Snyder’s behavior, which has continuously enabled, encouraged and fostered a hostile workplace and toxic culture for women, and calls for his permanent dismissal.
According to The Post, 25 women detailed a hostile workplace environment where new groups of interns were treated like “fresh meat;” special rules were put in place that forbade women from entering areas where male employees were free to go in order to not “distract” players; and team CFO Stephen Choi telling one intern who tried to file a sexual harassment suit that the organization had a “male-dominated culture” and she would have to avoid the man, pro personnel director Alex Santos, or quit.
Last month, WaPo dropped a bombshell report discussing the mistreatment of women at the hands of Snyder’s inner circle, and but not directly from Snyder himself.
But now former cheerleader Tiffany Bacon Scourby tells The Post that Snyder suggested at a 2004 charity event that she retreat to a hotel suite with a longtime friend of his so they “could get to know each other better.”
Scourby, then 26, and her fellow cheerleaders had finished performing at “Fight Night,” a charity boxing event put on by the team for 2,000 of Washington, D.C.’s elite, when Snyder approached her.
“You know, Tony is here,” Snyder reportedly said, pointing to his former high school classmate and team ophthalmologist Anthony Roberts. “We have a hotel room, why don’t you and Tony go upstairs and get to know each other better?”
She laughed and tried to play it off as a joke, but Snyder apparently wasn’t joking. She excused herself and walked away, and later told the cheerleading director about it.
According to The Post, Larry Michael, “voice” of the team and vice president, directed his staff to do a special project “for the owner:” making a lewd 10-minute outtakes video (that The Post obtained) of a 2008 shoot of cheerleaders that featured multiple nipple shots.
Michael retired last month as The Washington Post report was coming out and denied any involvement in the making of the video, although his account was refuted by his former staffer Brad Baker. According to The Post, Snyder declined to respond to several requests for comment. In response to last month’s story, Snyder made a statement saying that the kind of behavior described by The Post had no business in the organization or society, saying it was hiring an independent law firm to conduct an investigation.
Update: In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Snyder blasted The Washington Post story, calling it a “hit job” and “riddled with questionable and unnamed sources, decades old allegations.” There was also a healthy dose of victim blaming, with Snyder saying he was disappointed that “Ms. Scourby would speak to the newspaper but never bring any of these allegations to management’s attention.”
Snyder doesn’t explain who she was supposed to report him to if he is simply going to “unequivocally state that this never happened.” He also disavowed any knowledge of the cheerleader video.
The NFL released a statement saying, “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.”
The lewd video production is very much in line with previous reports of exploitation of cheerleaders for well-heeled men connected to the team and Snyder. A 2018 New York Times story describes men ogling cheerleaders topless or covered in nothing but body paint and being asked to accompany the team’s guests to a nightclub.
But sexist behavior with the team seems pervasive. Another woman, Brittany Pareti, told The Post that her time working with the team’s community and charity efforts caused her to seek therapy.
“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.”
Pareti and Scourby are among 12 former team employees who have retained attorney Lisa J. Banks, a partner in the D.C. firm Katz, Marshall and Banks, which specializes in civil rights, employment and sexual harassment law.
“A workplace culture this toxic and pervasive, at the highest levels of the organization, simply cannot exist without the knowledge and encouragement of the owner,” said Banks, whose firm represented Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford when she went public in 2018 with accusations of sexual assault against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, who denied them.
“We already know Snyder is a sexist,” said Thomas’ statement, and we know about his continuous refusal to abandon the football franchise’s racist namesake. If today’s Post report is not enough for the NFL to act immediately, it will be yet another example of the NFL’s cavalier and discriminatory attitude toward women.”