News, Culture & Society

Washington’s NFL team hires law firm to review workplace culture ‘ahead of misconduct claims’

Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington’s NFL team, has hired a District of Columbia law firm to review the organization’s culture, policies, and allegations of workplace misconduct as former Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and media members hinted at an imminent scandal that is unrelated to the club’s looming name change. 

ESPN was the first to report that the team hired high-profile Washington attorney Beth Wilkinson to review team protocols. She previously represented the NFL in a lawsuit challenging its cable television package. Her office has since confirmed the news to The Associated Press. 

Rumors of an imminent scandal surfaced this week, following the firings of Alex Santos, the Director of Player Personnel, and Richard Mann II, his top assistant. However, initially, those moves were attributed to the arrival of new coach, Ron Rivera, and the firing of former general manager Bruce Allen. 

Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington’s NFL team, has hard a District of Columbia law firm to review the organization’s culture, policies, and allegations of workplace misconduct, as former Redskins cornerback Josh Norman hints at an impending scandal on Twitter that is unrelated to the club’s looming name change

ESPN  reported that the team hired high-profile Washington attorney Beth Wilkinson to review team protocols. She previously represented the NFL in a lawsuit challenging its cable television package

Former Washington cornerback Josh Norman (pictured) hinted at an impending scandal on Twitter that is unrelated to the club's looming name change

ESPN  reported that the team hired high-profile Washington attorney Beth Wilkinson (left) to review team protocols. She previously represented the NFL in a lawsuit challenging its cable television package. Former Washington cornerback Josh Norman (right) hinted at an impending scandal on Twitter that is unrelated to the club’s looming name change

Also this week, radio play-by-play announcer Larry Michael announced he was retiring this week after 16 seasons with the team.  

‘The warped and toxic culture of the Washington Football Team is about to be exposed in a sickening fashion . . . Again,’ wrote CBS’ Jason La Canfora, a national NFL reporter who previously covered the team as a beat writer. 

On Thursday, ESPN reported that the Washington Post is preparing to publish a story that would expose a problematic culture within the franchise. Speculation of the report left team officials highly upset and frustrated, according to ESPN. 

Then Norman chimed in, tweeting that he wouldn’t answer any specific questions from followers, while hinting at the burgeoning scandal.    

‘I will say this, what goes around comes around,’ wrote Norman, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills. ‘What’s done in the dark will surly (sic) come to the Light! God seems to always have away of reposition his people at the right time & reveal Truths without saying a single – word.’

Thursday’s news comes during a tumultuous month in which the NFL franchise ditched its 87-year-old nickname, the ‘Redskins,’ following decades of criticism of a term that many find offensive to Native Americans. 

In a cryptic tweet, ex-Washington cornerback Josh Norman hinted at an imminent scandal

In a cryptic tweet, ex-Washington cornerback Josh Norman hinted at an imminent scandal 

Frederick W. Smith (pictured) is the founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx, one of the team's top sponsors, which released a statement last week formally requesting that the Redskins change their name. A Washington Post report claimed FedEx threatened to pull its sponsorship

Frederick W. Smith (pictured) is the founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx, one of the team’s top sponsors, which released a statement last week formally requesting that the Redskins change their name. A Washington Post report claimed FedEx threatened to pull its sponsorship

A Maryland native and lifelong fan of the team, Snyder’s business career began in wallboard advertising and telemarketing. By 1996, at age 32, he had become the youngest CEO of company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to FastCompany.com.

In 1999, Snyder bought the team and its stadium, now known as FedExField, following previous owner Jack Kent Cooke’s death for $800 million — the most expensive franchise acquisition in sports history at the time.

To finance the deal, Snyder brought in investors Dwight Schar, owner of the third-largest home builder in the US, Florida financier Robert Rothman, and Frederick W. Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx, which owns the $205 million naming rights sponsorship on the team stadium.

Although he inherited a team that won three Super Bowls, most recently at the end of the 1991 season, Snyder’s Redskins have taken a nose dive over the last two decades.

Through the 1999 season, the team has a 142-193-1 record with eight head coaches and a whopping 21 different starting quarterbacks over that time. 

Here, Redskins owners, from left to right: Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Dan Snyder are all smiles in the closing minutes of a win over the Vikings. Now Rothman and Schar are reportedly seeking to sell their shares over displeasure with Snyder, the majority owner

Here, Redskins owners, from left to right: Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Dan Snyder are all smiles in the closing minutes of a win over the Vikings. Now Rothman and Schar are reportedly seeking to sell their shares over displeasure with Snyder, the majority owner 

Dwayne Haskins is 21st quarterback to start for the team since Snyder became owner in 1999

Dwayne Haskins is 21st quarterback to start for the team since Snyder became owner in 1999

Snyder has also battled the Washington media, once tried to ban Washington City Paper beat writer Dave McKenna after one of his columns featured the team owner pictured with devil horns and a beard — a depiction Snyder insisted was antisemitic.

He even sued the paper and McKenna, but ultimately dropped the proceedings.

In recent years the Redskins have taken criticism for signing players facing legal problems, such as linebacker Reuben Foster, who was arrested twice for domestic violence, although the charges were dropped both times.

Protestors rally outside US Bank Stadium before the game between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings on October 24, 2019 in Minneapolis

Protestors rally outside US Bank Stadium before the game between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings on October 24, 2019 in Minneapolis

But the primary criticism of Snyder has been his refusal to change the team name and erase the racist history of a franchise that famously refused to integrate its roster until 1962.

Native American advocates and experts have long criticized the name they call a ‘dictionary-defined racial slur.’  

The origin of ‘redskin’ is disputed, according to a 2016 Washington Post article, that claims it was first used as a pejorative as early as 1863 in Minnesota. 

‘The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory,’ read an announcement in The Winona Daily Republican. ‘This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.’ 

By 1898, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary began defining ‘redskin’ with the phrase ‘often contemptuous.’

The team briefly lost its trademark on the name in 2017 when the United States Patent and Trademark Office invoked a rule barring anyone from registering racial epithets. Ultimately the Supreme Court ruled that the rule infringes on free speech, and the team’s trademark on ‘Redskins’ was upheld.    

Mona Roy and other protestors with American Indian Movement of Colorado and Idle No More yell and protest as the bus carrying members of the Washington Redskins football team arrives at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 27, 2013

Mona Roy and other protestors with American Indian Movement of Colorado and Idle No More yell and protest as the bus carrying members of the Washington Redskins football team arrives at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 27, 2013

Protests against the name predate Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change.

Strong words from sponsors – including a company run by a minority stakeholder of the team – changed the equation.

FedEx earlier this month became the first sponsor to announce it had asked the organization to change the name, particularly important because CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team. 

Last week the Washington Post reported that FedEx threatened to pull out of the remaining few years of the $205million naming rights deal, but Snyder avoided that problem by officially dropping ‘Redskins’ on Monday.

Franchise minority owner Dwight Schar (left) is reportedly seeking to sell his shares amid ongoing turmoil with Daniel Snyder (right), the team's majority owner

Franchise minority owner Dwight Schar (left) is reportedly seeking to sell his shares amid ongoing turmoil with Daniel Snyder (right), the team’s majority owner

Furthermore, the Washington Post and Pro Football Talk both reported on July 6 that Rothman, Schar and Smith all enlisted an investment banking firm to help them find a buyer for their shares over their displeasure with Snyder. Collectively they reportedly own 40 percent of the team, which is worth roughly $1.4billion, according to Forbes’ $3.4billion valuation in 2019. 

According to ProFootballTalk, Smith has been trying to convince Snyder to change the name for ‘years.’ Snyder was apparently surprised by the decision of his three minority owners, whom he considers friends, according to ESPN. 

Another critic, District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser, recently said the name was an ‘obstacle’ to Snyder building on the old RFK Stadium site because the land is owned by the Federal Government, which would need to approve the lease. 

A 2016 Washington Post poll found that 90 percent of the 504 Native American respondents were ‘not bothered’ by the team name, but that survey and other similar studies have been slammed by journalists and social scientists as being unreliable. 

‘The reporters and editors behind this story must have known that it would be used as justification for the continued use of these harmful, racist mascots,’ read a statement from the Native American Journalists Association. ‘They were either willfully malicious or dangerously naïve in the process and reporting used in this story, and neither is acceptable from any journalistic institution.’  

Fans react to the game action between the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins during the game at FedEx Field on September 23, 2012 in Landover, Maryland

Fans react to the game action between the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins during the game at FedEx Field on September 23, 2012 in Landover, Maryland

Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh in the lockerrom circa 1940s

George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins professional football team is pictured at a meeting of team owners in 1960 - two years before he was forced by the league to integrate his team

Washington DC removed a monument to Redskins founder George P. Marshall, who famously fought integration and refused to sign a black player until 1962

Hand painted concrete barriers stand around FedEx Field, home of the former Redskins

Hand painted concrete barriers stand around FedEx Field, home of the former Redskins 

The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that a trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights. Prior to that, the United States Patent and Trademark office had tried to revoke the Redskins’ trademark because it was a racial epithet.

In 2016, Snyder wrote an open letter in which he responded to a Washington Post poll showing that 9 out of 10 Native Americans did not take the term ‘Redskins’ negatively.  

Washington recently started cutting ties with racist founder George Preston Marshall, removing his name from the Ring of Fame and renaming the lower bowl at FedEx Field for the team’s first Black player, late Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell.

Marshall, who renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins in 1933 and moved it to D.C. four years later, was a segregationist and the last NFL owner to integrate their team. The current logo shows the profile of a red-faced Native American with feathers in his hair.

Events DC, a Washington-based sports promoter, recently removed a monument dedicated to Marshall.

The George P. Marshall monument had recently been defaced with spray painted graffiti

The George P. Marshall monument had recently been defaced with spray painted graffiti

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk