In the past year, former female employees within the newly named Washington Commanders Organization have begun to publicly come forward with allegations of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment against team owner Dan Snyder and other team executives. This revelation is not unique.
As reported by ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. on February 16th, 2022, the Dallas Cowboys paid a confidentially settlement of $2.4 million after four members of the iconic Dallas Cowboys Cheerleading squad accused former team executive, Richard Dalrymple, of voyeurism in their locker room as they were undressing at a 2015 event at AT&T stadium.
Dalrymple was a longtime senior vice president for public relations and communications with a long personal history in the Cowboys organization and with owner Jerry Jones. As reported by ESPN, Dalrymple was allegedly seen by Jones as a “member of his extended family”. In addition, Dalrymple also served as Jones’ confidant for 32 years. Dalrymple conveniently announced his retirement on February 2, 2022, just days after ESPN contacted the attorneys involved in this settlement.
The alleged incident, as reported by EPSN, occurred on Wednesday September 5, 2015, during the Cowboys annual Kickoff Luncheon, held at AT&T Stadium. After the four Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders performed, they returned to their locker room, and as they were undressing, heard the locked back door open. One of the cheerleaders then noticed a man’s hand and a cellphone pointed in their direction appearing to be filming the four women. According to ESPN, the cheerleaders were completely naked at this time, and one of the veteran cheerleaders immediately recognized the man to be Dalrymple. The cheerleaders then proceeded to report this incident to the security guard outside of their locker room who wanted to initially call the police. In Texas, it is a misdemeanor to secretly observe someone without their consent, and a felony to take a photo or a video of “an intimate area of another person” without their consent.
The police, however, were never called. The Dallas cheerleader’s director, after hearing about the incident, told the four women to report it to the Cowboy’s Human Resources department and the department took the statements of the four cheerleaders, the security guard, and two other employees who were potentially witnesses. Cowboys General Counsel, Jason Cohen, then confiscated Dalrymple’s work-issued iPhone to search for the alleged photos or videos. Dalrymple, admitted to Cohen that he used his security code to enter the Cheerleader’s locker room, but denied using his phone to take pictures of the four women.
Eight days following the incident, team officials finally met with the four cheerleaders in person. The four women were told by team officials that Dalrymple had admitted to entering their locker room, but the cheerleaders were told he did not expect to find the women present in their locker room. The cheerleaders further inquired if Dalrymple also had a personal phone in addition to a work phone, in which the team officials responded that Dalrymple had previously assured the team he did not.
As reported in ESPN, Cohen told the cheerleaders that Dalrymple “understands he was this close to being fired and still will be fired if anything even remotely like this comes to light.” The issue herein lies in the fact that Dalrymple was “this close” to being fired, but in reality was never disciplined for his alleged actions, he kept his job, and he kept the power. The cheerleaders and their lawyers were never told whether footage from the hundreds of security cameras all over AT&T were looked at to confirm this incident. The Dallas Cowboys team officials failed to properly investigate the alleged allegations by not providing the women the security camera footage that would confirm or deny the exact timing of the allegations. The team officials did not investigate the very legitimate possibility that Dalrymple could have been using another iPhone, but instead choose to believe Dalrymple.
One of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders stated, “it was a ‘he said, she said’ and the team chose to believe Dalrymple’s side of things” as concluded by EPSN. This narrative is comparable to the numerous former Washington Commanders female employees who came forward with sexual harassment allegations against owner Dan Snyder and other team executives. Former Washington cheerleader Tiffany Scourby stated, “I know people will say it’s he said she said… She said it because it happened” according to The Washingtonian.
It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for professional sports organizations to protect their long-time employees and especially senior executives. However, according to ESPN, this story is slightly different given that there are also allegations that Dalrymple had also taken inappropriate photos of Charlotte Jones Anderson, Cowboys Executive Vice President, and Jerry Jones’s daughter, on a livestream in the Cowboys’ draft “war room” on April 30, 2015.
As reported by EPSN, lifelong Cowboys fan Randy Horton took to Facebook writing that while watching a video stream of the Cowboy’s “war room”, he could clearly see Dalrymple taking “upskirt photos” of Charlotte Jones Anderson. The Cowboys were made aware of the “upskirt” allegation in May of 2015, four months prior to the cheerleader’s locker room allegation. However, a source told EPSN that Cowboys’ HR officials found no wrongdoing by Dalrymple in the video. The cheerleader’s lawyer again brought this video to the Cowboys’ attention on September 30, 2015, in a letter written to the Cowboy’s lawyers. The Cowboys issued a disciplinary letter to Dalrymple on October 19, 2015, and only then revoked his access to the cheerleader’s locker room.
In May of 2016, a settlement and nondisclosure agreement bound the four women and team executives to secrecy, and, in addition, barred the four women from discussing any details of the Charlotte Jones Anderson “war room” incident. This settlement remained confidential until ESPN received a tip, six months ago, from a former Cowboys executive about the alleged allegations against Dalrymple.
As reported by ESPN, the NFL determined that it will not be opening a separate investigation into the events surrounding the $2.4 million confidential settlement with the four cheerleaders and the cheerleaders’ allegations are “considered a club matter” according to NFL spokesman Brain McCarthy. These allegations come during a tumultuous time for the National Football League, and perhaps it’s time that the League does open a separate investigation that is not conducted by the club under allegations.
Last October, the leak of the racist and misogynistic emails sent by former Las Vegas Raider coach Jon Gruden to former Commanders President Bruce Allen, gained the attention of Congress who then demanded the NFL release the 650,000 emails gathered by the NFL who were then investigating the alleged wrongdoing. Among the disturbing exchanges between Allen and Gruden, the email chain also included photos of topless Raiderettes, Vegas’s team cheerleaders. The Washington Post also reported that Washington Commanders longtime owner Dan Snyder had attempted to thwart the investigation.The Washington Post also reported in August of 2020 information received by a former Washington Football Executive, that employees were instructed to create a “behind the scenes video” for owner Daniel Snyder featuring clips of partially nude cheerleaders pulled from a 2008 swimsuit calendar shoot.
There appears to be several striking similarities between the toxic workplace culture at the Washington Commanders, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders voyeurism settlement. The first is the repugnant response by the team’s officials to turn legitimate allegations of misconduct into a “he said, she said” situation which pins “low-ranking” female employees against “high-ranking” male executives. This type of behavior continues the antiquated portrayal of football as a misogynic “boys’ club” where cheerleaders are only present for male pleasure. Former Washington Commanders Cheerleader, Chasity Evans, told NBC Sports Washington that the women original didn’t come forward sooner regarding the 2008 video allegedly made for Snyder because “I don’t think they viewed us as people. They viewed us as replaceable objects” and idea of being seen as “replaceable” has silenced female employees within the National Football League to keep workplace misconduct quiet.
There is further investigation needed for mistreatment allegations of how the team officials handled the cheerleader’s original report by the National Football League. To protect and safeguard another incident from occurring, all teams must make a continual effort to protect their female employees by reviewing club policies, making sure their human resources department is accessible, and given all allegations swift and thorough hearings by an independent third party.
As described by former Washington cheerleader and Director of Marketing, Melanie Coburn on NPR, “the culture and environment in those offices was deplorable, like a frat party run by a millionaire who knew no boundaries.”  A similar toxic culture seemingly existed at the Dallas Cowboys where a top executive was protected.
With these allegations coming to light, is it imperative now more than ever that team owners and officials take responsibility and tangible action toward treating female employees as equal.