The attorneys for more than three dozen former Washington Commanders employees demanded the removal of “sexualized and salacious photographs” of the organization’s former cheerleaders from any congressional records.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz sent a strongly worded letter to House Committee on Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer (R-Kentucky) saying their clients are “humiliated and incensed by the GOP’s reckless dissemination of these photographs.”
The photographs in question were originally sent by the team’s former general manager and team president Bruce Allen to former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and several other men. Fifty-seven of the emails were distributed as part of a memorandum from Republicans on Dec. 7 after the release of the committee’s investigation, led by Democrats, into Commanders owner Dan Snyder and the organization’s workplace.
Banks told ESPN that including these documents was “outrageous.” She called the inclusion of these photos “unnecessary, inappropriate and unprofessional.”
A committee Republican aide said the pictures are not, and won’t be, part of the Congressional record. The memorandum was distributed to Republican staff members. Numerous media outlets received the memorandum as well.
The aide said in a statement that Democrats “cherry-picked facts” to support their narrative and that the Republicans’ memorandum was meant to show that more evidence should be considered.
The statement also read that, “Prior to circulating the internal memo, Committee staff took steps to ensure all sensitive images involving cheerleaders were redacted and their identities kept confidential.”
Banks and Katz also sent their letter to outgoing committee chairperson Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). Comer will take over as the committee chair next month.
A spokeswoman for the Democrats on the committee told ESPN, “Our report exposed what is possible when those in power work to maintain a culture that glorifies sexual harassment. No organization should ever disseminate sexualized images of an individual without their permission, least of all a body charged with protecting women from sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. We hope Committee Republicans will hear the concerns of the women pictured in their report and take overdue steps to protect their privacy.”
Last week, the Republicans released the 57 emails and documents, which included images of former Washington cheerleaders whose faces were blacked out.
“These emails show that under Allen’s leadership there was a toxic workplace — one that has since been reformed based on independent third-party reviews of the team’s culture,” the memo says. “Committee Democrats have not identified or presented any similar emails or documents identifying any racist, misogynistic, or homophobic behavior from Dan Snyder.”
Melanie Coburn, a former Washington cheerleader and marketing director, said that although two of the cheerleader photos were from a calendar, others were from pre-edits that were placed in binders meant to be presented to ownership and had not yet been released.
“It’s more about when [Allen] got access to these and what state these photos were in,” Coburn said. “In some body paint, if it’s not touched up, it’s very revealing.
“These women are devastated again. They feel powerless, they feel silenced and they’re retraumatized.”
Coburn said the inclusion of these images was a “slap in the face” to legislation introduced by Maloney called the Professional Images Protection Act that would “guard against employer abuse of employee images and ensure that employees have a say in how and when their images are used for business purposes.”
“These are our elected officials in the context of what purports to be an official document putting forward salacious sexualized images as part of their report obviously to embarrass one particular individual with whom Dan Snyder has a dispute,” Banks told ESPN.
In the letter to Comer, Banks and Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, wrote that including the former cheerleaders’ pictures caused “additional and unnecessary pain.” Coburn said some of the women involved in the pictures also were part of lewd videos from photo shoots allegedly made for Snyder.
“These photographs, which show women’s breasts, buttocks and genital areas,” they wrote in the letter, “were apparently disseminated to advance team owner Daniel Snyder’s persistent but discredited narrative that Bruce Allen, and not Mr. Snyder, was responsible for the sexually hostile and misogynistic team culture.
“Our clients also want assurances these photographs will never be used in such a manner again.”
Attorneys demand removal of ex-Washington cheerleader images