NFL fines Washington $10 million over bullying, harassment claims

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Investigators discovered that the Washington Football Team's ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to the issues and in some cases engaged in inappropriate conduct, including using demeaning language and public embarrassment
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The Washington Football Team has been fined $10 million by the NFL after an investigation into the franchise's workplace culture found evidence of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation, the league said Thursday.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that independent investigators had found a workplace culture that was "highly unprofessional" both "generally and particularly for women."

"Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace," the NFL statement said.

Investigators discovered that the team's ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to the issues and in some cases engaged in inappropriate conduct, including the use of demeaning language and public embarrassment.

"This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace," the NFL statement said.

Independent outside counsel Beth Wilkinson was appointed by Washington in July last year to conduct an investigation into the team's workplace culture.

The NFL assumed oversight of the investigation before the start of the 2020 season.

The probe followed revelations by 15 former Washington employees who alleged they had been subjected to sexual harassment during their time at the club.

One of the women, Emily Applegate, told the Washington Post she had been verbally abused by a former senior executive and ordered to wear tight-fitting clothes during meetings with clients.

Applegate added that the club had also been indifferent to complaints from a female employee who alleged she had been groped by a wealthy suite holder.

The NFL said Thursday Wilkinson's firm interviewed more than 150 people, the majority of them past and current employees. Team owner Dan Snyder was interviewed twice during the probe.

"It is incredibly difficult to relive painful memories. I am grateful to everyone who courageously came forward," Goodell said Thursday.

The league said that none of the managers or executives identified as having engaged in misconduct were still employed by the club, which since 2019 had been working to improve its workplace culture.

The $10 million fine will be distributed to support organisations which work to promote anti-bullying initiatives and better workplace culture particularly for women and underrepresented groups.

Washington owner Snyder has long been a polarising figure in the NFL, but was not among those executives accused of inappropriate behavior.

Last year's allegations came two years after the Redskins were accused of exploiting the team's cheerleading squad.

The team's cheerleaders alleged they were required to pose topless during a calendar shoot in Costa Rica, while some members said they were required to escort male sponsors during a trip to a nightclub.

The Washington Football Team were formerly known as the Redskins -- a controversial moniker deemed racially offensive by critics -- but changed their name last year after pressure from sponsors.

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