Ex-Washington NFL team staffer who alleges harassment: 'Nobody deserves to be degraded'

"We shouldn't be afraid that these are the things that are going to happen,” said Emily Applegate, who worked for the team from 2014 to 2015.
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By Drew Weisholtz

Washington’s NFL football team is facing accusations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by more than a dozen women who worked for the franchise.

On the heels of the organization’s decision to drop its team name, which has been long criticized as a racist slur against Native Americans, The Washington Post spoke to 15 women who say they were harassed by high-level executives with the team over a period spanning more than a decade.

Emily Applegate, who worked as a marketing coordinator with the team, spoke on the record with the newspaper while the 14 others detailed their accounts on the condition of anonymity.

Emily Applegate, a former marketing coordinator who alleges that she was routinely harassed by two NFL Washington team executives throughout her time there in 2014 and 2015.Celeste Sloman / The Washington Post via Getty Images

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In an interview with NBC News that aired Friday on NBC's "TODAY" show, Applegate spoke about her allegations.

“Nobody deserves to be degraded and treated like that,” she said by video call. “Nobody deserves to be disrespected. And for any of us women that want to get into a career that is a male dominated force we shouldn't be afraid that these are the things that are going to happen.”

Applegate, 31, worked in her role with the team from February 2014 to August 2015. During that time, she said her boss would often talk down to her.

“Any small issue that set him off, set him off like times 10, and that would be when he would curse at me. He would use derogatory slurs towards me,” she said.

In speaking with the Post, Applegate called her time with the organization "the most miserable experience” of her life.

“And we all tolerated it because we knew if we complained — and they reminded us of this — there were 1,000 people out there who would take our job in a heartbeat.”

The 14 other women who spoke to the Post did not reveal their identities due to concerns about legal retribution, including some who said they had signed nondisclosure agreements. The allegations span the years 2006 to 2019.

Three of the men accused in the article have either been fired or left the team, including two scouting officials and veteran radio play-by-play announcer Larry Michael. Colleagues told the Post that Michael has a history of making inappropriate comments about women, including ones captured on a hot mic about a college-aged intern.

It’s unclear if Michael was ever disciplined by the team. The Post reports Michael, who was the voice of the team for 16 years, abruptly retired a few hours after the newspaper requested an interview. NBC News reached out to Michael for comment.

None of the women who came forward made allegations of improper conduct against team owner Daniel Snyder and former president Bruce Allen, but some did blame them for a toxic work environment.

In a statement Friday, Snyder said the Post story has strengthened his "commitment to setting a new culture and standard" for the franchise.

"Beth Wilkinson and her firm are empowered to do a full, unbiased investigation and make any and all requisite recommendations," he said. "Upon completion of her work, we will institute new policies and procedures and strengthen our human resources infrastructure to not only avoid these issues in the future but most importantly create a team culture that is respectful and inclusive of all."

Applegate says she felt helpless while she worked for the team.

“These people are not going to believe or care about some young woman that's making $32,000 a year when they have somebody that's the CMO of a company that they have to protect,” she said on "TODAY."

The Washington team declined to comment on the allegations, referring to statements it gave to The Washington Post.

NBC News has confirmed the team has hired a law firm to investigate the allegations.

In a statement to the Post, the team said it “takes issues of employee conduct seriously. … While we do not speak to specific employee situations publicly, when new allegations of conduct are brought forward that are contrary to these policies, we address them promptly.

The NFL called the allegations "serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL's values."

"Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment," the league said in a statement, adding that the team is looking into the matter.

"We will meet with the attorneys upon the conclusion of their investigation and take any action based on the findings," the league said.