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At Least 15 Women Accuse Redskins Staff of Sexual Harassment

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  • At least 15 women have accused Washington Redskins staffers of sexual harassment and verbal abuse during their time working for the team. Others accused top employees of creating a hostile work environment.
  • The allegations include derogatory remarks about physical appearances, unwanted flirtation and touching, and other actions that belittled female staff members.
  • While team owner Dan Snyder was not named in accusations of sexual harassment, he was pointed to as fostering a toxic workplace culture.
  • The team has hired an attorney to conduct a thorough review of the matter. Snyder has condemned the reported conduct, and the National Football League says they will meet with the team’s attorneys after the review is completed and will take action based on the review’s findings.

Allegations of Sexual Harassment

At least 15 women have accused Washington Redskins staffers of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, according to a Thursday report from The Washington Post

All the women are former employees of the professional football team. Fourteen of the 15 who spoke chose to remain anonymous as they had signed nondisclosure agreements with the team. When The Post asked if they could be released from those agreements to speak on the record for their story, the Redskins declined. The Post spoke with 40 current and former employees and reviewed text messages and internal company documents in their investigation.

The report details derogatory remarks, unwanted flirtation, verbal abuse, as well as a culture that cultivated and encouraged toxic behavior and the belittlement of women. Emily Applegate, one of the women who came forward, said female employees were encouraged to wear tight-fitting clothes “so the men in the room have something to look at.” 

“It was the most miserable experience of my life,” Applegate said. She worked for the team throughout most of 2014 and 2015 and claimed that she and other female staffers frequently cried on the job from the distress the harassment caused. 

The allegations stem from 2006 to 2019. Team owner Dan Snyder was not specifically named when it came to sexual harassment, though he was pointed to when it came to the team’s hostile workplace. Other higher ups on the team were named, and three are no longer with the Redskins. 

Who Was Involved?

Larry Michael, senior vice president of content and the team’s radio announcer, retired on Wednesday. Seven former employees accused him of talking about the appearances of female staffers in sexual ways. According to the accounts of these former workers, he suggested one female staffer was sleeping with other employees, said one staffer had a “tight ass,” and would often talk about how attractive he found his female colleagues to be. 

Alex Santos and Richard Mann II were the club’s director and assistant director of pro personnel. They were both fired last week. The Post alleges that Santos would make remarks about female employees’ bodies and asked if they were romantically interested in them. He was also accused of flirting with female employees in front of other staff members, and in one case, allegedly pinched a woman’s butt in front of multiple people.

The Post received texts where Mann told a female employee that there was an ongoing debate among men working for the team about whether or not she had plastic surgery to enhance her breasts. He told her to not “be mad” and that it was a compliment. In another text exchange, he told a female employee that he was going to give her an inappropriate hug. 

“And don’t worry that will be a stapler in my pocket, nothing else,” Mann wrote. 

The three men declined to speak to The Post for their story. The report also claims Dennis Greene, former president of business operations, sexually harassed women and encouraged them to wear revealing clothing. He left the team in 2018 after it was discovered he had sold access to the team’s cheerleaders. 

Mitch Gershman, the team’s former chief operating officer, was also accused of berating female workers. He left the team in 2015. Applegate specifically accused him of harassment, but Gershman said he does not even remember who she is. 

“I thought the Redskins was a great place to work,” he told The Post. “I would apologize to anyone who thought that I was verbally abusive.”

A Toxic Workplace at the Redskins

According to The Post, the team has one human resource staffer for 220 employees. That staffer also had administrative responsibilities. 

One former female employee told The Post that “there’s no HR” and no “reporting process.”

As for the allegations of a toxic culture, Snyder allegedly berated top executives, including Greene. Snyder allegedly forced Greene, who was a cheerleader in college, to do cartwheels after one meeting. 

“I have never been in a more hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive environment…and I worked in politics,” Julia Payne told The Post. In 2003, she was briefly the team’s vice president of communications. Before this, she was an assistant press secretary in the Clinton administration. 

Payne said she did not experience any sexual harassment herself, but noted that given the company’s culture, it’s no wonder the women who did may have been reluctant to report to HR.

The Team’s Response

“The Washington Redskins football team takes issues of employee conduct seriously,” the team told The Post. “While we do not speak to specific employee situations publicly, when new allegations of conduct are brought forward that are contrary to these policies, we address them promptly.”

This is the second time this month the Redskins have made headlines for addressing controversy. Last week, the team announced that they will be changing their name and logo, which has repeatedly come under fire for being racist. No new mascot or name has been revealed yet. 

For the allegations they are currently facing, the team has hired D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson “to conduct a thorough independent review of this entire matter and help the team set new employee standards for the future.”

“We’re trying to create a new culture here,” the team’s new coach Ron Rivera told The Post. “We’re hoping to get people to understand that they need to judge us on where we are and where we’re going as opposed to where we’ve been.”

Snyder initially refused to comment to The Post for their Thursday story. On Friday, he issued a statement saying that the reported conduct “has no place in our franchise or society.”

“This story has strengthened my commitment to setting a new culture and standard for our team, a process that began with the hiring of Coach Rivera earlier this year,” he added.

This came shortly after the National Football League released a statement condemning the behavior outlined in The Post’s report. 

“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values. Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment,” the league said. The NFL plans on meeting with attorneys after the team’s review of the matter is completed and will take action based on the review’s findings. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (USA Today) (CNN)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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