Melanie Coburn and Ana Nunez courageously took a Tuesday train from Washington to New York City to take on the NFL.
The former Washington Football Team employees delivered a letter personally to the league’s 33 owners at the fall league meetings.
They are demanding accountability and transparency from the NFL about its investigation into Washington’s hostile workplace culture that Nunez said they “covered … up.”
Coburn and Nunez stood in the lobby of The InterContinental New York Barclay in Midtown Manhattan as representatives of all former employees who were subjected to “an environment rife with sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse of its female employees.”
“We want the league to acknowledge that this happened,” said Nunez, a former Washington sales representative and suites department employee. “We want them to be made accountable, especially [owner] Dan Snyder, for letting this happen over and over again for years and years. And honestly, we want to place some sort of system of accountability, not just for owners but for everyone. It starts at the top. We want it to start at the NFL.”
This comes on the heels of two members of Congress sending commissioner Roger Goodell a letter last week requesting documents and information connected to the investigation.
“The NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems it recently uncovered raises questions about the seriousness with which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia — setting troubling precedent for other workplaces,” the House of Representatives members wrote.
The league slapped Snyder on the wrist with a fine and a temporary removal from daily operations in July, and the NFL suspiciously produced no written report of the investigation’s findings.
Leaked information from the 650,000 emails collected during the investigation has indicted people outside of Washington in recent weeks, including since-fired Raiders coach Jon Gruden, ESPN insider Adam Schefter and NFL head lawyer Jeff Pash.
All of the leaked emails were communications with former Washington team president Bruce Allen. But Snyder and the Washington organization so far have skated.
That’s not good enough, the women said Tuesday afternoon.
“We want an admission of guilt,” said Coburn, a former Washington cheerleader and marketing coordinator/director. “[When the investigation’s findings are released], it’s going to show mistreatment of women, it’s going to show a lot of intimidation and the old boys club that was and is the Washington football team.”
Goodell hid behind the NFL’s desire to protect accusers’ “security, privacy and anonymity” in their decision to not release the investigation’s full contents. That rang hollow, obviously, on the same day that two accusers had conducted a press conference in the hotel lobby.
Goodell said the Washington Football Team’s workplace environment “is not what we expect in the NFL” and that he’s confidence changes will be made to address that.
He also contended about Snyder: “I do think he’s been held accountable.”
Jets owner Woody Johnson asked reporters to please keep their questions to football when asked about the Washington investigation prior to Tuesday’s meetings beginning.
“That’s something between the league and the people involved in that,” Johnson said. “I’m not gonna opine on that. We’re here for football. So, any football?”
Johnson added: “I know we’ll be spending a lot of time on those issues: diversity and inclusion and trying to up our game in that, which we’re constantly working on. So I know that’s a critical part.”
But Nunez, who is now an account manager with a tech company in the D.C. area, said it is “painful” for all of the alleged victims to watch the NFL and Washington try to move on.
She said she was subject to harassment that included “actually being sexually harassed by senior VPs, top tier employees who make comments about what you’re wearing, your looks. And you’re just supposed to brush it off.”
She said she came forward seven months prior to her departure from the organization and told the team’s assistant general counsel what happened, and nothing was done.
She said neither the NFL or the team has apologized.
“By admitting sorry they’ll admit something went wrong, and right now they’ve kind of just covered it up and said this happened and we took care of it,” she said. “The only thing I heard the team wanted to do was pay for our silence.”
Coburn, who now runs an event company in the D.C. area, told Albert Breer of The MMQB that the findings will reveal “serial sexual harassment” and “serial sexual assault.”
A slew of owners sped through the hotel lobby, meanwhile, directly over the spot the women had stood hours earlier, without stopping to say more than a word.
It spoke volumes.