Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder sexually harassed female subordinates for years and even had secret "soft porn" videos made of cheerleaders, former employees told a congressional committee on Thursday.
The new and repeated allegations were made by six former employees of the Washington, D.C., NFL franchise during a House Oversight Committee roundtable on toxic workplace culture.
Former employee Tiffani Johnston made new allegations against Snyder on Thursday, saying he placed his hand on her thigh without her consent at a team dinner and that he pushed her toward his limousine with his hand on her lower back.
“He left his hand on the middle of my thigh until I physically removed it,” Johnston said.
Describing the incident outside Snyder’s limousine, she said: “The only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and stopped pushing me towards his limo was because his attorney intervened and said, ‘Dan, Dan, this is a bad idea.’ ... I learned that I should remove myself from Dan’s grip while his attorney was distracting him.”
Former marketing director Melanie Coburn and one-time video production manager Brad Baker both repeated the allegation that Snyder had secret videos made for him, called "The Good Bits,” from footage taken at cheerleader shoots.
"We trusted the production team to capture footage and keep it safe. Little did we know, they were zooming in on private parts and keeping cameras rolling during costume changes," Coburn told lawmakers in her prepared remarks.
"I’ve cried with the women in the videos as they explained the horror of seeing themselves in what is essentially a soft-porn video, soundtracked to Dan Snyder’s favorite bands," Coburn said. "These women remain traumatized."
Abuse of women was so ingrained in team culture, there was no real mechanism to flag inappropriate behavior — as even eye contact with Snyder was discouraged, said former marketing coordinator Emily Applegate
"I was told not to speak to Dan Snyder or to even look at Dan Snyder," according to Applegate. "Many employees were intimidated into not speaking to him and intimidated into not reporting the harassment."
Baker recalled how employees were told to even avoid being in Snyder's line of sight.
"If he’s walking toward you, duck into the nearest office; under no circumstances should you interact with him," Baker said in his prepared remarks.
Representatives for the team, just renamed the Commanders this week, released a statement from Snyder on Thursday denying the allegations from the hearing.
“I have acknowledged and apologized multiple times in the past for the misconduct which took place at the Team and the harm suffered by some of our valued employees," Snyder said. "I apologize again today for this conduct, and fully support the people who have been victimized and have come forward to tell their stories."
"While past conduct at the Team was unacceptable, the allegations leveled against me personally in today’s roundtable — many of which are well over 13 years old — are outright lies," he continued. "I unequivocally deny having participated in any such conduct, at any time and with respect to any person."
Complaints about the team’s treatment of female employees first surfaced in 2020. Snyder commissioned an investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson’s firm into the team’s workplace environment that was taken over by the NFL.
But the league did not release any details of the Wilkinson investigation’s findings, and former employees who spoke Thursday noted the contrast to the way the NFL handled an investigation into allegations that quarterback Tom Brady deflated footballs.
“When the investigation of the air pressure of Tom Brady’s football concludes with a 200-plus-page report, but the investigation into two decades of sexual harassment concludes with nothing, it shows the NFL’s complete lack of respect towards women, their employees and for the culture of our country,” Applegate said Thursday.
The NFL in July fined the team $10 million following the conclusion of Wilkinson's probe due to the club’s “highly unprofessional” workplace that exposed employees, particularly women, to intimidation and sexual harassment.
Snyder, who ceded day-to-day operations of the team to his wife Tanya Snyder amid the investigation, said in July he agreed with the fine and didn’t dispute any findings.
“I have great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here,” Snyder said in a statement. “I’m truly sorry for that. I can’t turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I are the owners of this team.”
For almost all of the team's history, it had gone by an offensive name, demeaning Native Americans. The team finally dropped that name in July 2020 and for the past two seasons had simply been called the Washington Football Team.