The Washington Post on Wednesday reported additional examples of workplace sexual harassment inside the Washington Football Team organization, and allegations that owner Dan Snyder was personally involved.
The Post reported a former cheerleader saying Snyder invited her to a hotel room with one of his friends, and that longtime team executive Larry Michael made extra cheerleading videos for the owner showing sensitive material that wasn't made public. Snyder released a statement denying those specific allegations and saying he was unaware of the incidents until now.
"I want to unequivocally state that this never happened," Snyder said of the report he invited a cheerleader to a hotel room in 2004. "Furthermore, I do not have any knowledge of the 10-year-old videos referenced in the story. I did not request their creation, and I never saw them."
After the Post’s first story on the subject ran last month, Snyder vowed a cultural change and opened the organization up to an independent investigation. The latest story cites 25 more women who said they experienced sexual harassment while working for the team. They described a workplace in which male bosses, colleagues and players commented on their bodies and clothing, used sexual innuendos and made unwanted advances.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement condemning the behavior alleged in the report and said the league will "take any appropriate action" following the conclusion of an independent investigation into the team led by counsel recommended by the league.
"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.
"An independent investigation into these issues is in process, led by highly experienced counsel recommended by our office. We will continue to monitor the progress of this investigation and ensure that the club and its employees satisfy their obligation to give full cooperation to the investigators. If at any time the club or anyone associated with the club fails to do so, the investigating counsel has been asked to promptly advise our office and we will take appropriate action. When the investigation concludes, we will review the findings and take any appropriate action at that time."
Snyder said that behavior "has no place in our franchise or in our society." He repeated his intention to improve the organization's culture and said he'll be more hands-on as an owner moving forward.
"I take full responsibility for the culture of our organization," Snyder said. "I have begun taking any and all steps necessary to ensure that the Washington Football Team is an organization that is diverse, inclusive and respectful of all."
Following Snyder's statement on Wednesday evening, the Washington Football Team released a statement in response to the Post's article.
"We are deeply distressed by these terrible allegations and are committed to investigating them fully. Our priority is creating a culture where our employees – on and off the field – are respected and empowered," the statement read, in part. "Our first concern is for the safety and security of our teammates, and we have encouraged any employees who have endured similar experiences, now or in the past, to report it immediately. We are already taking in a series of additional steps to hold ourselves accountable to our commitments. We remain focused on building an organization where all employees feel valued and are invested in shaping the new direction of our franchise."
Following the release of the club's statement, the team's new president, Jason Wright also offered his thoughts via Twitter.
"We are all feeling weighed down by the hard to read accounts," he tweeted. "We are now setting a new culture, we will take swift and decisive action, and we will lift the heaviness my colleagues are feeling today. Our journey starts now."
Full statement from Washington owner Daniel Snyder:
The behavior described in the Washington Post's latest story has no place in our franchise, or in our society. While I was unaware of these allegations until they surfaced in the media, I take full responsibility for the culture of our organization. Even before today's article, I have begun taking any and all steps necessary to ensure that the Washington Football Team is an organization that is diverse, inclusive and respectful of all.
I have admittedly been too hands-off as an owner and allowed others to have day-today control to the detriment of our organization. Going forward I am going to be more involved, and we have already made major changes in personnel bringing in new leadership to drive cultural transformation on and off the field. In addition, we are assembling a world class team of external advisors to both investigate these allegations and create an actionable and measurable plan to change our culture.
The Washington Post article reads like a "hit job" relying on unnamed sources and allegations that are largely ten to twenty years old. We attempted to engage with the Washington Post to provide them with the facts, but those facts clearly didn't align with their narrative. There are former employees on the record disputing many of these claims, and yet they still appear in print. It is clear that there are other negative agendas at work in this reporting.
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. I want to unequivocally state that this never happened. Ms. Scourby did not report this alleged incident to anyone at the team in 2004, in her 8 years as a cheerleader, or at any time in the past 16 years.
Furthermore, I do not have any knowledge of the ten-year old videos references in the story. I did not request their creation and I never saw them. There are former employees on the record stating that this did not happen. The unnamed sources who claim it did happen are relying on three degrees of hearsay. 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.
This article is riddled with questionable and unnamed sources, decades old allegations and is not a reflection of The Washington Football team today. I am going to work relentlessly to improve all aspects of the Washington Football Team and make this an organization that sets a positive example that we can all be proud of.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.