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Julie Donaldson hired by Washington’s NFL team to replace radio voice Larry Michael

Julie Donaldson will be part of the Washington NFL team's radio broadcasts this season. (NBC Sports Washington/Courtesy photo, NBC Sports Washington)

Washington’s NFL team has hired former NBC Sports Washington anchor and reporter Julie Donaldson to be its vice president of media and one of its game day radio voices.

Donaldson, 42, becomes the highest-ranking woman at a franchise that last week announced an independent review of its culture following a Washington Post report in which 15 female former employees and two female reporters accused high-ranking team officials of sexual harassment. Among the men accused was Larry Michael, whom Donaldson is replacing in overseeing Washington’s broadcast operations.

She is believed to be the first woman to be a full-time member of an NFL team’s radio booth.

Donaldson said she repeatedly asked team officials, including owner Daniel Snyder, if she would be able to be more than just a broadcaster, if she would be allowed to make decisions about the broadcast operations and address the culture that allowed the harassment to happen. She said she was assured she would.

“I’ve been in situations where you take it home with you and not say anything because that’s what you have to do,” she said.

She added that the timing of her arrival, with the organization about to choose a new team name and with Ron Rivera starting as head coach, made it easier for her to accept the job, knowing that she would be breaking barriers in the broadcast booth.

“It hasn’t even hit me yet,” she said with a laugh.

From dream job to nightmare: 15 female employees allege sexual harassment

While Donaldson replaces Michael, Washington’s longtime play-by-play announcer, as a vice president, she will not be taking over play-by-play responsibilities. She is more likely to fill an analyst role in what could become a three-person broadcast. But as the executive in charge of the organization’s broadcast operations, her first duty will be to hire a replacement for Michael, who announced his retirement last week a day before The Post report published.

Two other employees accused of sexual harassment — director of pro personnel Alex Santos and Richard Mann II, the assistant director of pro personnel — were fired before The Post story published. The team has hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson to lead a review of its culture in the wake of the allegations.

Donaldson is the second high-profile hire the franchise has made since the allegations were made public. On Monday, Terry Bateman, a longtime adviser to Snyder and twice a former team official, was hired as executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Donaldson joined NBC Sports Washington in 2010 and hosted several of the network’s shows and was a part of the network’s coverage of all area teams. In recent years, she has regularly been assigned to Washington’s NFL team, helping to host some of the franchise’s programs that are broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Before coming to Washington, she worked for Miami’s Fox Sports affiliate, New York’s SNY and WHDH in Boston.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Washington is still trying to figure out how the radio booth will look this season. Donaldson will probably host the broadcast’s pregame and postgame shows and work in the booth during games. For many years, the team’s broadcast centered around a three-man booth anchored by Frank Herzog and later Michael, with Hall of Fame players Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen providing commentary. The setup was more of a three-way conversation than a traditional radio broadcast.

Huff retired after the 2012 season and was replaced by former Washington tight end Chris Cooley. Jurgensen retired last August, leaving Michael and Cooley to announce games last year.

Donaldson has barely more than a month to hire the new play-by-play voice. While the NFL has said it will cancel all preseason games because of concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic, the regular season is still scheduled to start on time, with Washington’s opener against Philadelphia set for Sept. 13.

In a statement released by the team, Snyder called Donaldson “a trailblazing journalist who has worked on multiple award-winning shows and has a passion for sports in the DMV.” The team owner added that he “can’t think of anyone better” to run the franchise’s broadcast operations.

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