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15 Women Speak Out About Culture Of Sexual Harassment Within Washington NFL Team


Today, The Washington Post has published an investigative piece with stories from more than a dozen women alleging they were sexually harassed and verbally abused while working for the hometown football team. All but one of the women told their stories under a condition of anonymity. The woman who agreed to have her name used, Emily Applegate, remembers crying in the bathroom with another female colleague over the harassment and abuse the Post calls relentless. Washington Post reporter Liz Clarke has this story, along with her colleague Will Hobson. Liz Clarke joins us now.


LIZ CLARKE: Thanks, Ailsa. Thanks so much for having me.

CHANG: So can you just start by telling us a bit more about what Emily Applegate says she endured?

CLARKE: Yes. She - just constant harassment, verbal abuse from her boss. She had hoped to make a career in sports. She was berated, called stupid. She worked in a marketing department where the women in sales were encouraged to wear tight outfits to close sales.

This is reminiscent of a cheerleader scandal that the Redskin - the team - the Washington NFL team had two years ago, when some of the same bosses were found to have basically sold access to the cheerleaders to close sales. So it was part of a culture of the team's management on the business side to use women, to verbally abuse women to get them to deliver the sales.

CHANG: And you found Emily Applegate's story pretty typical compared to other women you talked to for this investigative piece.

CLARKE: You know, there were variations on a theme. There were women who worked not in sales but in the main team headquarters who were verbally harassed by scouts. Some got text messages that were very inappropriate, one saying there was a running - not joke, but...

CHANG: People were guessing...

CLARKE: Staff were debating - yes. Like...

CHANG: ...Whether her breasts were real.

CLARKE: Thank you. Yes - whether her breasts were real or augmented. Others would - were cornered and told, nice butt. Could you turn around? There were two cases where female beat writers were - received completely inappropriate, unwelcome advances from scouts. And this was over a span of 13 years.

CHANG: Right. And how has the team responded so far?

CLARKE: Yes. So the team responded to our questions for comment, but most notably, they have hired D.C. lawyer Beth Wilkinson to conduct a thorough independent review of what is going on in their workplace to develop some new standards. But this is a similar response that the team came up with to the cheerleader scandal two years ago that the New York Times reported.

CHANG: That is Washington Post reporter Liz Clarke.

Thank you very much.

CLARKE: Thank you.

CHANG: And I should mention that NPR has reached out to the Washington football team for comment about the allegations about their employees' conduct. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.