As we celebrate Dan Snyder's departure, don't forget the women who helped make it happen

It speaks volumes about Dan Snyder's tenure as team owner that Washington Commanders fans in the District and beyond are treating Thursday like their own holiday — Sayonara Snyder Day.

Twenty-four years of dysfunction. Twenty-four years of mediocre football at best and outright terrible football at worst. Twenty-four years of overmatched coaches, under-talented quarterbacks and heartbreaking losses.

Twenty-four years of a megalomaniac team owner who ruled his football fiefdom through intimidation, denigration, litigation and alleged sexual harassment.

It's finally over. The Commanders sale is official.

Huzzah and hallelujah. Pull on your favorite maroon and gold jersey, crank up the go-go, and party down.

And as you do, as you celebrate the departure of arguably one of the worst team owners in American professional sports history (at least that we know of), make sure you raise a glass to Megan Imbert, Melanie Coburn, Emily Applegate, Tiffani Johnston and the dozens of other women who had a huge role in making it happen as well as a few of their male coworkers who backed them up.

As employees in Washington team offices, those women endured workplace hell. The NFL's first investigation confirmed it. Their dreams of working or cheerleading for one of the NFL's marquee franchises were often quickly replaced by these reported harsh realities: verbal abuse from supervisors, constant comments about their physical appearance, propositions for hotel room rendezvous during training camp, demands that they wear short skirts and low-cut tops to serve as eye candy for co-workers and potential clients, being taken out of the country and having lecherous suite holders ogling them without their permission as they did photo shoots.

In-house complaints largely went nowhere. Punishments were rare, if they ever occurred.

It wasn't until women began speaking with the Washington Post that anything of substance happened. Executives resigned or were forced out, and the white-hot spotlight of the national news media — not just the too-frequently-league-friendly NFL media corps — were talking about the toxic environment with Washington.

Melaine Coburn, left, and Megan Imbert are two of the women who bravely spoke up against Dan Snyder and the toxic Washington Commanders workplace environment. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Melaine Coburn, left, and Megan Imbert are two of the women who bravely spoke up against Dan Snyder and the toxic Washington Commanders workplace environment. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

It wasn't until a much wider audience was paying attention that the NFL stepped in, in yet another of the league's transparent public relations shows, taking over the investigation Snyder and Washington had opened up led by Beth Wilkinson. Cementing the fact that it was largely a farce, commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members of the owner class failed these women spectacularly, protecting Snyder over the many victims of the culture he not only did nothing to curtail but, according to some, participated in fomenting.

After well over 100 people sat with Wilkinson's group and were promised a measure of justice, they got a metaphorical slap in the face: There was no written report. Not just no report made available to the public, nothing anywhere. Wilkinson was told to and did present her findings orally. ESPN reported earlier this month that back in 2021, as Wilkinson's team was wrapping up, Snyder's attorneys had used what is now referred to as "the Blackmail PowerPoint" to threaten league officials if anything from the findings was ever leaked.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, even though he effectively dictated the terms of his own pathetically inadequate punishment, Snyder couldn't just wait out his suspension: instead he is reportedly a prime suspect of playing a role in the leak of emails that led to Jon Gruden being fired as head coach of the Raiders, and that the series of events that followed ultimately became the tipping point to exile him from ownership.

Team owners and league officials may have cowered to Snyder's threats, but the women wouldn't. They haven't. They've talked to media. To Congress. To each other, sharing the weight of taking on one of the biggest, most visible entities in this country because what they endured is unacceptable and it takes a level of courage few of us have to engage in a battle like they have.

Since their roundtable on Capitol Hill 17 months ago, a second league investigation took place, this time led by Mary Jo White. The NFL released some of those findings on Thursday, and fined Snyder $60 million.

Shoving Snyder out of the club doesn't mean that the league's one and only problematic owner is now gone. There's a reason Snyder's lawyers threatened the other members of their cohort and were successful: because they believe they had ample ammunition.

But those decades of disorder are over. Washington fans can have hope again. They may even get a new stadium, one that isn't mostly empty and liable to give way under the weight of a few eager fans.

As you celebrate, be sure to acknowledge the women who set all of this in motion. Without them you likely would have been stuck with awful ownership for decades more.

Sayonara, Snyder.


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