Fifteen former employees of the Washington Redskins say they were sexually harassed by some of the team’s top staffers during their tenure, the Washington Post reported in a bombshell exposé Thursday. Two female journalists say they were also harassed while they covered the team.
The allegations span from 2006 to 2019, painting a portrait of an organization where sexual harassment was rife. A former member of the executive staff said that, as she stood at the top of a plexiglass staircase, she realized that a male trainer was staring up at her and walking in lockstep with her — from more than two floors away, according to the Post. One woman received a text message from Richard Mann II, the then-assistant director of pro personnel, saying staffers had been debating whether her breasts were “real or fake,” the Post reported. The newspaper also reported that Mann also texted a female employee that she should anticipate an “inappropriate hug.”
“That will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else,” he added, according to the Post.
Mann was fired after the Post detailed its findings to the team. He wasn’t the only staffer to suddenly leave the team recently: Alex Santos, the team’s director of pro personnel, was also fired in the past week, while Larry Michael, the Redskins’ senior vice president of content and longtime radio announcer, announced his retirement hours after the Post requested an interview with him.
A spokesperson for the Redskins didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment from VICE News, but in a statement to the Post, the Redskins said that the team “takes issues of employee conduct seriously.” It has hired an outside firm to review “this entire matter.”
“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 team added.
Fourteen of former female employees who said they’d been harassed spoke on the condition of anonymity, as some had signed nondisclosure agreements that bar them from disparaging the Redskins in public. The Post also interviewed more than 40 current and former employees.
Six former employees and two journalists accused Santos of sexual harassment, according to the Post. Rhiannon Walker said that on one occasion in 2019, while she was covering the Redskins for the Athletic, Santos pressured Walker to date him, despite her refusal.
Santos was investigated by the Redskins after Walker complained about the incident, the Post reported. An attorney for the team later told the Athletic that Santos had been disciplined.
Several former employees also told the Post that Michael frequently made objectifying comments about female staffers. In one instance, he was recorded discussing the attractiveness of a college-aged intern, multiple former employees told the Post. The Redskins confirmed to the Post that the club has the recording in its confidential files.
VICE News could not reach Mann or Michael, and Santos didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. All three men declined to comment to the Post.
On Friday, the NFL released a statement condemning the allegations.
"These matters as reported are serious, disturbing, and contrary to the NFL’s values," the statement read. "Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment."
The Redskins were embroiled in controversy long before the Post’s article. In recent weeks, public pressure had mounted on the team to change their name, widely considered to be a racist slur. On Monday, the team announced it would soon go by a new, yet-to-be-announced name and logo.
Cover: Signs for the Washington Redskins are displayed outside FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday, July 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)