It’s the day after the Washington Post’s exposé on the disgusting culture of misogyny that seems to run through the building at the headquarters for the Washington football club, the one that so far has led to two team personnel executives being fired and the longtime voice of the team announcing a hasty retirement.
The entire situation is appalling. Female reporters and team employees propositioned by men in the building and the men pressing even when they’ve been told no; lewd behavior like staring up women’s skirts through a plexiglass stairwell; demands that women show off their bodies to sell expensive suites for a perennially underperforming team; comments that imply that a woman’s value is tied to her breast size; and women being forced into bathrooms to cry together and commiserate about the vile behavior they’re enduring in the name of the so-called prestige of working for an NFL franchise.
Let’s be clear: If you think the 15 former female employees and two reporters cited in the story are the only ones who dealt with events like this, you’re kidding yourself.
And in the wake of the story, two weak statements were issued, one from the NFL and one from Washington team owner Dan Snyder, both as useless as a broken lightbulb in a dark room, neither doing much more than acknowledging the story and using some hackneyed platitudes about that kind of behavior having no place in the Washington franchise or the NFL, blah, blah, blah.
In the NFL statement attributed to commissioner Roger Goodell, we learned that the league is content to let Washington essentially investigate itself. You know, like how the league let the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots investigate themselves in the Bountygate and Deflategate scandals, respectively.
Oh, wait, that’s not at all what happened in those cases — the league investigated Bountygate itself and spent millions of dollars for Ted Wells to lead the Deflategate investigation.
The league also investigated Jerry Richardson’s abominable predatory behavior toward the women who worked in Carolina Panthers’ offices and racist behavior toward at least one other employee after Sports Illustrated’s initial report, doing so even after Richardson announced that he would sell the team.
So what’s different here? Is it just because Snyder himself hasn’t been implicated, so the league — and by “league,” I mean the majority of team owners — thinks it’s no big deal? Did Goodell poll some team owners, find out there’s little, if any, support to sanction Snyder and move forward with a statement that can barely be categorized as tepid?
Spend a few minutes on social media and look at the number of women who have spent any amount of time with or around an NFL team, whether as a team employee or a media member covering a team, and it’s clear that Washington is not the only team that fosters this type of hostile environment. Goodell has to know this, and for that reason, it would behoove him to make an example of Snyder and Washington to push the 31 other clubs to clean up their houses.
Beth Wilkinson, whom Washington hired as outside counsel to go through the organization, may be an exceptional attorney, but she’s being hired and paid for by Snyder. And since she’s considered an exceptional attorney, we can assume she’s no dummy, and as such, it would be stunning at the end of all this if she advises Snyder to do the one thing that needs to be done: sell the team.
If the Panthers fetched more than $2 billion when Richardson sold them, what could Washington command? It’s become a laughingstock during Snyder’s tenure, but it’s still an iconic franchise in one of the most visible markets in the country.
Goodell’s statement said the allegations in the Post story are “contrary to the NFL’s values.” Which values?
The values that allow multibillion-dollar corporations to function with just one person running human resources for 200-plus employees, as Washington has?
The values that allow a 2018 story on Washington’s gross mistreatment of team cheerleaders to essentially be ignored? Or a formal 2019 complaint into the director of player personnel’s treatment of a reporter to be swept under the rug?
The values that seem to place the PSI of footballs over treatment of women in the workplace?
All of this gives the distinct impression that Snyder is going to skate with the league, and what’s more, Snyder is so odious he seems intent on passing the buck to Ron Rivera, his new head coach and apparent de facto team president.
Rivera had nothing to do with Snyder clinging to Washington’s racist team name for so long, but it’s only his voice we’ve heard in recent weeks talking about it; Rivera had nothing to do with the years of mistreatment happening in team offices, but yet his statement was the first we saw on Thursday night, before Snyder’s and before the NFL’s.
Snyder’s statement said he hired Rivera in part to change the culture for Washington, but Rivera was head coach in Carolina when Richardson’s serial sexual harassment came to light and Rivera dedicated the game ball to him as a show of support, so it’s a little unclear where this idea that Rivera is some staunch anti-harassment crusader comes from.
Ahhh, wait, it’s because Rivera has a daughter who works for the team. He said he won’t allow the disturbing environment to continue because his daughter works in the building. So if she didn’t work there, then what?
Once again, when it comes to a situation with women being mistreated or abused, the NFL is taking the path of least resistance and showing what it really does value — and it’s not us women.
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