Banks, who represents nearly 40 former team employees, told Applegate and the others that, in exchange for the money, they would have to sign nondisclosure agreements and agree to stop doing news interviews and posting on social media about their experiences while working for the team.
Attorneys at Reed Smith in D.C. representing the team and owner Daniel Snyder did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday, nor did a team spokeswoman.
“It was pretty easy for us to say no. That wasn’t the purpose for why we said anything,” Applegate said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Banks, in an interview, declined to comment on the negotiations she had with the team’s attorneys. She did not dispute Applegate’s description of the offer, which was supported by Megan Imbert, a former producer in the team’s broadcast department.
“They were upset about our social media presence and press,” said Imbert, summarizing the message she said was conveyed by Banks. “We turned it down because we see the bigger picture and we have always been after meaningful change, both within the organization and across the league.”
The settlement offer was made in February, Applegate and Imbert said, during a lull in activity in the NFL’s investigation of allegations of pervasive sexual harassment and mistreatment of female team employees during Snyder’s tenure as owner. Imbert and Applegate viewed the offer as an attempt by the team to ensure their silence and minimize the fallout when the NFL’s investigation, overseen by attorney Beth Wilkinson, concluded and its findings were publicly announced. The offer would not have blocked them from speaking to investigators, the women said.
“It just felt like they wanted to bury this and shut us up,” Imbert said.
What the women didn’t know at the time is that no findings from Wilkinson’s investigation would be released publicly by her or the NFL, including what she concluded about Snyder’s role in the culture described by employees or about allegations raised regarding his own conduct, including an alleged incident on his private plane in 2009 that resulted in a $1.6 million settlement with a female former team employee.
In a court filing, Snyder called the former employee’s allegations “meritless,” asserting he settled only at the request of the team’s insurers.
In July, the NFL announced it had fined the Washington Football Team $10 million for fostering a workplace culture in which sexual harassment was commonplace. But the league declined to release any specific findings and claimed Wilkinson produced no written report and presented verbal findings to Commissioner Roger Goodell. Wilkinson has repeatedly declined requests to comment.
The NFL did not punish Snyder personally as part of the investigation but highlighted in the news conference announcing its findings that his wife, Tanya, had risen to the role of co-CEO and would assume responsibility for managing the team’s day-to-day operations for an unspecified number of months.
Outrage among Applegate, Imbert and others over the NFL’s handling of the investigation was reignited this week when emails Wilkinson obtained as part of her work, reported on by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, showed Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden making racist and homophobic remarks. Gruden resigned Monday.
Wilkinson obtained Gruden’s emails — sent several years ago, when he worked for ESPN as an analyst — because they were sent to Bruce Allen, the longtime former Washington team president Snyder fired in 2019. Allen has declined to comment about Gruden’s emails.
On Wednesday, Applegate, Imbert and eight other former team employees sent a public letter to the chief executives of major NFL sponsors including Nike, Amazon and PepsiCo, requesting they insist the league release detailed findings from the Wilkinson investigation.
“The many survivors who had come forward in good faith to share their experiences deserved to understand the truth, and to know that their participation was meaningful and reflected in the findings,” wrote the former employees, who accused Goodell of “deliberately burying the findings of the investigation."
”The consequence of Mr. Goodell’s decisions around this investigation, and the lack of any meaningful action against Dan Snyder, is to tell women and survivors everywhere: ‘You and your experiences do not matter to the NFL — especially if those experiences potentially expose the misdeeds of a very wealthy owner,’" the employees wrote.