Former Washington football team employees will share their allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse with members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 3 in what’s called a “roundtable.” , the committee announced Thursday morning.
Former employees considering participating include Emily Applegate, the team’s former marketing coordinator and ticket sales representative; Melanie Coburn, former cheerleader and former chief marketing officer; Rachel Engleson, a former intern turned director of marketing and customer relations; Ana Nunez, former Business Development and Client Services Coordinator; 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 must be asked and answered about 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.”
The chair of the committee, Rep. Carol Maloney, DN.Y., will lead the roundtable and provide any committee members who wish to participate with the opportunity to question former employees.
“For more than twenty years, employees of the Washington Football Team have been victims of sexual harassment, verbal abuse and other misconduct,” Maloney said in a statement. “It is becoming increasingly clear that not only has the team failed to protect employees, but the NFL has gone to great lengths to prevent the truth about this toxic work environment from coming to light. The NFL’s decision to cover up this abuse raises serious questions about its commitment to establishing workplace standards that keep employees safe.I commend these victims for their bravery in coming forward to share their stories.
Representative James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the committee, told ESPN in a statement that the roundtable was a “misuse of the resources of this committee” by Democrats.
Although the meeting will be held in a traditional courtroom and streamed live via YouTube and on the committee’s website, attendees will not be sworn in, according to a spokesperson for the committee. She confirmed that no one currently with the team or the NFL has been asked to participate.
In a statement to ESPN, NFL spokesman 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 announces its new name.
Democrats on the committee told ESPN they are pursuing the investigation as a case study to inform potential legislative solutions that could protect employees who experience sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. They told ESPN in October that they wanted to make sure the NFL wasn’t covering up the information by using nondisclosure agreements signed by 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 the allegations of sexual harassment.
Congress sent a letter to the NFL in October requesting information after emails obtained in that investigation leaked to the media, prompting the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
Gruden’s emails, sent over a period of seven years to then Washington President Bruce Allen, included racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language. They also led to new calls for the NFL to release the findings of the Washington Football Team’s independent workplace investigation.
In its five-page letter to the NFL, the congressional committee requested a list of documents and answers to questions, including: the league‘s role in Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into workplace culture Washington football team; why there was no written report after 150 people were interviewed; and what role NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash played during the investigation after his close 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 requested documents.
Allen was fired after the 2019 season. Other members of the organization who had been accused of sexual harassment or contributing to a toxic workplace were either fired or retired.
Some Democrats on the Oversight Committee have indicated an interest in Snyder’s role in his organization’s overall workplace culture.
The roundtable, they told ESPN, is a continuing step in the committee’s investigation, not the end of the investigation.
“Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said in a statement. “No one deserves to be harassed or abused at work, and this committee will do everything in its power to protect employees at WFT and beyond.”