Former WFT cheerleader Melanie Coburn is on a mission, the NFL better pay attention

Former WFT cheerleader Melanie Coburn is on a mission, the NFL better pay attention

Ten years after leaving the Washington Football Organization, things have changed for Melanie Coburn.

For the Maryland native and former Washington “Redskinette” cheerleader from 1997-2001, who then moved into the front office and was named director of marketing for the team’s cheerleading program in 2008, her experience working for her favorite team NFL leagues uncomfortable. , but it wasn’t until she left Landover that it began to dawn on her just how bad things were.

“A lot of people ask me that, why didn’t you come forward earlier or why didn’t you say anything then? And to be completely honest, when it was happening to me, I took it. We were used to it, it was the business and the culture they cultivated there. When I left in 2011 and started a business and started a family and came out into the real world and met business owners and people who treat their staff with respect, it was shocking to me. And as time went on, I realized, ‘Wow, it was really bad what happened and what was going on there.'”

Coburn speaks out about the team and its leadership, and is on a mission to hold them accountable for what she now sees as a toxic workplace culture of harassment, misogyny and inappropriate behavior: “I could have moved on and it was just in okay with that. I wasn’t rooting for the team, I lost a lot of passion. Dan Snyder and the whole experience I had there unfortunately took that passion away from me.”

When asked to pinpoint what changed that caused her to become a vocal detractor of the club she once supported and reported professionally for, she said: “The main thing that started it and started the fire in me stomach to stand up for this thing is when those videos appeared. These obscene videos, when an anonymous source came forward to the [Washington] Post, and these articles were published by the Post last summer.”

Around the time of the bombshell Washington Post coverage earlier this year, some of her fellow cheerleaders began talking to each other about their shared experiences: “I remember something bad happening, but it wasn’t my project,” but when they started to talk, they realized that “a lot of bad things are happening there.”

In this edition of The Cult of Colt Podcast, we sat down with Melanie to discuss her thoughts on WFT and her advocacy of speaking up to clear things up. Last week, she penned an op-ed in USA Today that made waves, then traveled to Manhattan for an NFL owners meeting, where she hand-delivered letters demanding the league release its findings and hoping to draw more attention for its cause.

Coburn graciously took the time to talk to us about her background working first as a cheerleader and then in reception, and pulls no punches when talking about what she’s been through.

“There was tons of sexual harassment, tons of degrading and humiliating behavior, tons of belittling.

“Over 150 people participated in the investigation, I know of at least a dozen others who didn’t because they didn’t think the NFL investigating the NFL was legitimate, and I know ten to fifteen people who have reached out in the last six months saying : ‘Thanks for sticking around, I signed this NDA on the way out. Good for you, I’m glad you’re doing it.”

As members of the cheerleading squad, Coburn and her teammates took immense pride in representing the team in the community, although their experience was not without its struggles:

“All the women were part-time team members. You had to be a full-time student, mother or have a full-time job.” They wanted women “who were successful and could be role models. They signed contracts and NDAs, but we were the face of the team in the community.

“We were the ones who were in the trenches, in the community, shaking hands, holding babies, and we loved it, it was wonderful, we were ambassadors for the team, we did military tours all over the world.”

Coburn made 10 overseas trips and traveled to 35 countries while representing the organization and the cheerleading team.

“It was my great passion. To this day I am so blessed to have this opportunity, my entire time with the team has been incredible. I had friendships that lasted for years, but the culture they had for full-time employees and what they had to deal with there was not okay. I was harassed, there was no HR when I was there. In one instance, I went up to the person wearing the staff cap when I was being harassed by a football player and they said, ‘it’s him or you and it’s not going to be him.'”

Reflecting on the now-infamous photo shoot, he reflects on what was meant for the team’s program called “Beach Beauties” which was intended to promote sales of the annual cheerleading calendar and market the team in a positive light, “the team would use this content, great content , there are these beautiful strong women.”

But as we now know, there was a darker side to photography that motivated Coburn to speak out: “The videos were claimed, Larry Michael shot them and demanded they be made, and they took all the extra footage from our calendar shoots, and what most people don’t realize and wonder why the girls upstairs were without? Why were they body color?” and that’s what ownership demanded of us. They wanted to push the boundaries, they asked for these racy shots, they wanted to make it as sexy as possible. We didn’t force the girls into these photo shoots, they volunteered … but they did and they knew they were going to get a month [in the calendar] or they were going to get a feature in the calendar, so for many it went on for years.”

Her understanding, as explained to those involved in the photo shoot, was that “they were meant to be taken by a professional photographer, we thought we were safe. These were Redskins employees, these were production members from our team, so we thought we had a closed set, only to find out there were “angles that were very inappropriate” and the videos were “commissioned , done on purpose.”

“[The fans] knew the camera was there, but not that it was still running,” but Coburn was so appalled by the leaked revelations that it led to the ousting of Bruce Allen, Larry Michael, and others in to the front desk that she couldn’t bring herself to watch the videos they requested: “I haven’t seen the videos. I didn’t want to see the videos.”

For Coburn, the videos were the last straw that made her realize that silence was no longer an option, “those women who were in those videos settled down. There was a settlement, mediation and they got some money, but it came with an NDA.”

“A lot of the cheerleaders in the videos talked about it and then agreed. Initially, several of them spoke publicly about the videos and disclosed the whole issue,” but due to pressure from the team, they “finally negotiated [a settlement],” which is why they did not come out publicly.

However, with the revelation of inappropriate emails between former team president Bruce Allen and now former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, “Now we see that there are emails with photos of cheerleaders, so now we know it’s a lot more than just those initial videos. ” He added: “We only know of two videos, but unfortunately I think there are more… Gruden’s emails were terrible too, but he’s the one who went down, he’s obviously collateral damage. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things out there that are going to hurt so many people and tear them down.”

For Coburn, her time at the organization was marked by bullying and a top-down power structure that made every day a minefield to navigate.

“We weren’t allowed to look Dan Snyder in the face. When he was in the office, we were told to sit in your cubicle and not leave.”

“It was a very intimidating and threatening environment, and that’s unfortunate. Fortunately, a lot of [fans] were protected from that. They had a very unusual experience with auditions where [Snyder] was in his suite asking [applicants], have them turn around, and we’ve seen all these weird things happen where they’ve been trying to get apartment owners on calendar shootings to gated lots.”

When asked why she stayed as long as she did, Coburn felt it was her duty: “I stayed there four years longer than I wanted to because I felt like I was protecting them,” she said of team cheerleaders.

“They’re looking for young entry-level people, they’re finding young beautiful women, they’ve always had me with somebody trying to sell something, and that was the environment… that was my second job, I started cheerleading when I was nineteen, I had i have been in college for a short time but this was my first job. I didn’t know what to expect. Most of the people in the organization are like that, they are all very young.”

Coburn and her former teammates have also been embroiled in owner Dan Snyder’s legal battles over the past year, “Snyder’s private investigators from Reed Smith visited more than a dozen cheerleaders in April and May,” across the country, “these women breastfeed and cook dinner and they’re working and coming home to people coming out on their front porches asking about Bruce Allen and how they’re related to him, and I’m sorry we’re in the middle of an investigation and it feels like bullying to me.”

“I was nervous, I felt sick [participating in the investigation.] We’re talking about deep, terrible, trauma-like things, and we’ve all had to relive it.”

Now, Coburn is on a mission and has become the leader of a grassroots movement to seek justice from the NFL and the Washington Football Team Organization. Along the way, she has found many others to support her in her endeavors, most notably her recent trip to the NFL owners meeting in New York to release a report compiled by Beth Wilkinson for public use.

“It was so overwhelming; we didn’t know that the media would overwhelm us the way we were.” Coburn and a former colleague decided to go in person because they wanted to make sure they received the letters asking the owners to release the report, “we wanted to take a photo to show that we are real people, people when we’re here, we’re not just a group of people [hidden behind] anonymity. We want it out.” While the league said the report would not be made public due to privacy concerns, it was clear “the reason people have asked for anonymity is his retaliation,” according to Dan Snyder.

He added: “There are so many stories out there that need to be shared, but there is so much fear. I just hope Congress keeps pushing, I hope they allow more people to come forward.”

When asked about the response and feedback she has received from former colleagues and teammates, Coburn was pleased with the support she has received.

“There was no pressure, the only opposition I had was when I tried to confirm my stories. I have stories, but the media, journalists do a good job and they have to confirm them. There are people who are afraid and don’t want to do it. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but mostly I get so many emails from people I’ve worked with for a long time and are with me. They feel the same way, wish they could speak up now, but they signed an NDA.

“Frankly, all of this is terrifying for me, I don’t like to speak publicly, it’s not something I enjoy, but [the media] have been sympathetic and supportive … they’re not trying to hurt me, they just want the truth as much as I do.”

Now that Coburn has brought attention to her case, she is committed to soldiering on. “I feel blessed that we’re able to do this, I really hope we can make a difference.”

In putting together a petition, hoping to gather 50,000 signatures to make the Wilkinson report public, she sums up her goal in one word: “Transparency. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. If the truth comes out, changes will come, they will have to. When you read and hear the stories I’ve heard and know, this can’t stay, the management has to go.”

As for what she lost along the way, “I was a fan. I want to go to the games on Sunday just like you. I wish I could wear burgundy and gold and have a team. This year or last, for the first time in 18 years, I didn’t play fantasy football at all. It sucks. It was a big part of my life and now it’s gone and I wish it was, but there’s no way I can support this franchise anymore.”

For Melanie Coburn, the fight for justice is just beginning.

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Which NFL team has loudest fans?

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What NFL stadium gets the loudest?

Well, Arrowhead has it right there too – not just in the NFL, but around the world. He holds the Guinness World Record for “loudest crowd roar” in a sports stadium, which Guinness recorded at 142. Read also : Women’s History Month Spotlight: “To my colleagues, I’m the same. I am one of them.”.2 decibels during a 41-14 victory over the Patriots in September.

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Which channel will Washington announce the new name? Washington football president Jason Wright announced Tuesday that the franchise will unveil its new name and logo on Feb. 2. The announcement is expected to be made on NBC’s “Today” show.

Has Washington announced their new name?

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