WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform committee hosted a two-hour roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill Thursday with six former Washington Football employees about claims of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct.
The discussion could serve as a precursor for a hearing that involves leaders from the Commanders and the NFL.
The collective ire of the former employees centered on team owner Dan Snyder personally and his management. They also called for the NFL to release a written report of its investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment and workplace improprieties in the Washington football organization.
"Daniel Snyder should not be managing any human beings," said former employee Melanie Coburn. "He should not be in a power position. He needs to be held accountable for his actions."
"Agree 100%," responded Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC).
Former employee Tiffani Johnston shared a story about Snyder with committee members for the first time. She claimed Snyder put his hand on her thigh during a dinner engagement and then later aggressively pushed her towards his limousine.
"The only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and pushing me towards his limo is because his attorney intervened and said, 'Dan, Dan. This is a bad idea. A very bad idea, Dan," Johnston said.
Snyder released a statement later calling the accusations "outright lies" but committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) read from a letter sent in from former team Vice President Jason Friedman that corroborated Johnston's allegations.
"He says, 'I witnessed Dan Snyder grab the arm of my coworker Tiffani Johnston and attempt to pull her into his limousine,'" Rep Maloney read aloud. "This took place over a dinner in D.C. I was shocked. Thankfully, Tiffani was able to quickly pull away.'"
An NFL spokesman provided a statement to WUSA9 in response to the new allegations.
“We are grateful to the witnesses who again demonstrated courage by sharing their painful experiences. The NFL is reviewing and will consider Ms. Johnston’s allegations as we would any other new allegations regarding workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders. We will determine any further action as appropriate. Today’s testimony underscores that all employees deserve a workplace that is free from harassment of any kind and where they feel safe reporting misconduct. I expect that a lot of people are going to have to answer questions about what's raised (this) week," said U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) of Illinois, who leads the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said in an interview with WUSA9. When asked if WFT leaders and NFL officials would be expected to answer questions in a public forum, Krishnamoorthi said, "Absolutely. And I expect that will happen as well."
Two Republican members of the committee insisted that nothing would happen as a result of the Committee's discussion.
"I respectfully disagree," said Rep Krishnamoorthi in a statement emailed to WUSA9 following the discussion. "The Committee’s investigation, this roundtable, and some excellent reporting from journalists have put these stories in the spotlight. The world is watching, our investigation is ongoing and we are continuing to work towards legislative solutions to ensure workplaces are safe for everyone and to address the use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent the disclosure of workplace misconduct.”
Krishnamoorthi initiated an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and workplace hostilities within the Washington football franchise, as well as the NFL's own internal investigation into the matter, in October 2021 alongside U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
After launching the investigation, Krishnamoorthi laid out a three week deadline for the NFL to produce documents related to it's investigation. He said the NFL has cooperated "to some extent" and they've produced documents "on a rolling basis."
"We still haven't received the bulk of documents that were examined by [Beth] Wilkinson, the NFL's attorney," Krishnamoorthi said. "Apparently she looked at tens if not hundreds of thousands of documents in that particular investigation. We need to get them so we can proceed with our investigation as well."
Recent reporting by the Washington Post highlighted alleged efforts by WFT owner Dan Snyder to interfere in Wilkinson's investigation of the team. A charge, at the time, referred to by Krishnamoorthi in a news release claiming, "Snyder will stop at nothing."
"I don't know Mr. Snyder," Krishnamoorthi said. "But what I've learned from this investigation and public reports is very disturbing at this point and I think it's fair to say that he has a lot of explaining to do."
Snyder, through the team, issued a statement today in response to the claims made during the Congressional roundtable discussion.
“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. I apologize again today for this conduct, and fully support the people who have been victimized and have come forward to tell their stories. In response to learning about incidents like these in 2020, the Team, on its own, undertook to revamp its policies, procedures and personnel. Real change has been made and employees of the Team have confirmed the vast improvement in Team culture over the past 18 months. 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. I unequivocally deny having participated in any such conduct, at any time and with respect to any person. Tanya and I will not be distracted by those with a contrary agenda from continuing with the positive personnel and cultural changes that have been made at the Team over the past 18 months, and those that we continue to make both on and off the field.”
Six former employees offered testimony during the discussion.
- Emily Applegate: former marketing coordinator, premium client services coordinator and ticket sales representative
- Melanie Coburn: former director of marketing, marketing coordinator and cheerleader
- Rachel Engleson: former director of marketing and client relations, director of client services, manager of premium client services, customer service representative and intern
- Ana Nuñez: former coordinator of business development and client service and account executive
- Brad Baker: former video production manager and producer
- Tiffani Johnston: former cheerleader and marketing manager
"The intent is to hear the stories of various individuals who have come forward to talk about their claims of sexual harassment at the Washington Football Team," Krishnamoorthi said. "It would behoove both the NFL and the Washington Football Team to come forward themselves and be more forthcoming with what happened in this investigation."
Krishnamoorthi is aware that the discussion with former employees is coming just one day after Washington Football unveiled its new team name. He chalks that up to the House being in session and witness availability.
"There's a lot going on in the NFL all the time," he said.
As for additional witnesses who could come forward and share their stories, WUSA9 asked specifically about former WFT quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has written a book called "Surviving Washington" set to be released on Aug. 9.
The book will supposedly shed light on allegations of sexual harassment within the Washington Football Team and Griffin will donate all proceeds to foundational work.
"I want you to take the journey with me as I walk you through one of the most dysfunctional franchises in all of sports," Griffin said in a Twitter video. "I'm going to open your eyes to the sexual harassment that permeated the walls of that building."
Krishnamoorthi would not say if he or anyone else with the Committee had spoken to Griffin.
"I can't get into who else might be attending, but I think it's fair to say that others have expressed an interest in attending," he said. "So, we're meeting with them. Talking to them. And seeing if their information may be relevant to this hearing."