Melanie Coburn, a former cheerleader for the Washington Football Team (WFT), is angry that decades of sexual harassment that she experienced as part of the team have been overshadowed by an email scandal involving the now-former Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden and Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder.
According to Coburn, Gruden’s racist comments uncovered in the investigation into workplace misconduct “pale in comparison” to what can be discovered about owner Dan Snyder. She, and a handful of WFT cheerleaders, demand more details, asking the investigators to release the nearly 650,000 emails obtained.
In a Washington Post expose released last August, WFT cheerleaders revealed that they were filmed nude without their permission during a 2008 photo shoot for the annual swimsuit calendar.
Larry Michael, the team’s senior vice president, had produced the shoot, as well as a video titled “Beauties on the Beach,” which chronicled how photographers use props and tightly framed shots to capture the swimsuit shots while respecting the women by concealing their bare breasts.
Not known to the WFT cheerleaders, however, was that a second, secret video was being shot that producer Larry Michael called “the good bits,” according to a former member of his staff. The secret video captured the women partially nude, in transition, without their permission. The videos were then set to owner Dan Snyder’s favorite rock songs, according to the allegations.
Traumatized by the “boys’ club” culture of the Washington Football Team management, Melanie Coburn also detailed incidents such as a $1.6 million sexual misconduct settlement against Dan Snyder that has been completely swept under the rug, and non-disclosure agreements that kept many women from speaking out.
According to The New York Times, ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden also exchanged emails with former WFT General Manager Bruce Allen that included photos of the WFT cheerleaders wearing only their bikini bottoms.
Feeling invisible in comparison to Gruden’s email scandal on racial misconduct, Melanie Coburn wrote an op-ed for USA Today on Thursday to demand more information from the emails be released.
“I know some of these stories and how deeply disturbing they are,” she said. “We experienced decades of mistreatment, harassment, belittlement and abuse.”
Gruden is so far the only person to be held accountable for the email scandal, after it was revealed that he used homophobic and racist language about members of his team in emails sent to WFT’s Bruce Allen. He resigned on Monday in disgrace, and the Washington Football Team was only fined $10 million.
“Since the investigation wrapped up, the NFL gave the Snyder’s a little slap on the wrist and then the WFT announced they would make Tanya, Dan’s wife, co-CEO,” Coburn wrote. “This is not behavior that shows an organization making any progress at all.”
She compared the lack of an investigation into their sexual harassment claims to that of the famous investigation into the Patriots alleged use of deflated balls, which she said was over 243 pages long.
“It’s despicable, really, to see that there is more evidence of exploitation and violation of these cheerleaders who I worked very closely with” that is not being released, Coburn said. “It’s just more anxiety-producing evidence that very private, compromising content was circulating not just amongst our team but apparently the entire NFL.”
“Do the right thing for women and make Washington’s sexual misconduct investigation public,” she wrote in a petition signed by dozens of WFT cheerleaders.
“We feel invisible. Deflated. Marginalized. Diminished,” she revealed. “I gave 14 years of my life to the WFT, and I couldn’t even get a written report… if Washington fans deserve anything, it is to be free of the toxic, drama-filled, misogynistic culture that comes from the top. Release the damn report.”