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Washington Football Team fined $10 million for 'bullying and intimidation' at workplace

The NFL said the work environment, particularly for women, was "highly unprofessional" and that owner Dan Snyder will take a lesser role within the team.
Los Angeles Rams v Washington Football Team
Alex Smith of the Washington Football Team talks to his teammates in the huddle against the Los Angeles Rams on October 11, 2020 in Landover, Md.Patrick McDermott / Getty Images file

The NFL on Thursday fined the Washington Football Team $10 million for the club's "highly unprofessional" workplace that exposed employees, particularly women, to intimidation and sexual harassment. The league also announced that team owner Dan Snyder will take on a lesser role within the organization.

The law firm of Washington D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson interviewed more than 150 current and former team employees and found that "for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional," according to a league statement.

"Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace," the statement continued.

Team owner Dan Snyder said he agrees 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."

His wife will take over running the team for the next several months, the league said.

"As co-CEO, Tanya Snyder will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team operations and represent the club at all league meetings and other league activities for at least the next several months," the league said. "Dan Snyder will concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters."

Investigators concluded that the team's toxic work culture came from the top down.

"Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment," according to the league.

"This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace."

The team had an "inadequate HR staff" to deal with employee concerns, which added to a "fear of retaliation."

"When reports were made, they were generally not investigated and led to no meaningful discipline or other response," according to the league.

The $10 million that will be paid by the team will go to "support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics," the NFL said.

The team was told to implement a 10-point series of workplace safeguards that include a formal protocol for reporting workplace harassment, hiring more women and minorities for "supervisory positions that have decision-making authority" and assigning a human resources employee to have the specific duty of protecting cheerleaders from abuse.

Team cheerleaders in 2013 were required to escort sponsors to a nightclub in Costa Rica in 2013 and pose for topless photos, according to a 2018 report in The New York Times.

The team is in the process of picking a new name after responding to decades of pressure to change its moniker, long condemned as an anti-Indigenous slur.