ASHBURN, Va. - The Washington Football Team has made headlines again after Jon Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders last week over emails that revealed racist, misogynistic, and homophobic remarks made by the then-ESPN analyst to former team executive Bruce Allen. But one former Washington employee says the team has a much bigger problem.
Melanie Coburn is a wife, mother, and business owner but she has now seemingly taken on the role as a voice for the voiceless. For 14 years she worked as a member of the Washington Football Team cheerleading squad where she was witness to years of workplace misconduct which was eventually investigated by the NFL and later reopened, leading to the Gruden email leak.
But for Coburn, the biggest issue has yet to be addressed.
"We know that that is a very, very small fraction of the 650,000 emails that we know they have access to," she told Fox News of the leaked emails initially reported by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. "These emails were also a result of the investigation that we participated in -- over 150 of us former employees of the Washington Football Team. Countless hours, lots of trauma relived, lots of emotions and anxiety and yet the only person to take fall for these terrible wrongdoings was a coach of another team."
The NFL has denied releasing the emails to any media. League spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed this to ProFootballTalk in a report published last week.
"I believe Dan Snyder leaked these emails," Coburn told Fox News. "I believe he’s trying to put all the blame on Bruce Allen. He sent over a dozen private investigators to my colleagues’ homes across the country … to show up on cheerleaders' doorstops and ask them what their relationship with Bruce Allen was."
An attorney with a firm representing Snyder told Fox News in a statement Tuesday that any claim that he, or anyone within the organization, was behind the media leaks was "categorically false."
However, Coburn said she felt confident that Snyder was behind the leaks. "I feel like he’s trying to pin everything on Bruce, right, and place all the blame for all of the bad culture on him, which just isn’t true."
"Any suggestion by Ms. Coburn that anyone associated with the Washington Football Team was behind any leaks concerning Jon Gruden is categorically false and part of a pattern of misinformation being spread by Ms. Coburn," the attorney, Jordan Siev, told Fox News.
Fox News reached out to the Washington Football Team for a comment regarding Coburn’s statement but received no response.
"[This leak] brings to light that the women of the Washington Football Team were exposed in these emails and we don’t know the extent of it," Coburn said.
An initial report from The Washington Post in 2020 revealed at the time a request for an unofficial video showing the cheerleaders being unknowingly exploited but the Times reported Monday that emails between Gurden, Allen, and other men had circulated topless photos of women, "including one photo of two Washington team cheerleaders."
"It’s terrifying," Coburn said of the latest revelation. "Like I said, these women cheered a decade ago. They are now mothers. They have careers. They own businesses. They’re teachers. Think about how it impacts them. They’re reliving this trauma that they went through the first time with the videos when the videos came out and now they’re just going through all these emotions again."
"Nobody realizes that these women can’t speak up now," she added." They’ve signed these (Non-disclosure agreements) and if I don’t do it I don’t know who else is going to do it."
Coburn, like other former employees, signed an NDA but she told Fox News that hers was revoked in order to speak to the NFL as part of their investigation which resulted in a $10 million fine against Washington.
She started a petition earlier this year, long before the NFL’s investigation reviewed the emails, calling for the league to release a report on its initial findings. Now attorneys representing 40 former Washington Football Team employees have reignited those calls for transparency.
"I don’t have hope that the NFL is going to come forward with any more information, unfortunately," Coburn said when asked if she believed the league would comply.
"The NFL and the Washington Football team are a microcosm of what society is at large and I do feel very passionately about the NDAs," she continued. "I think we need NDA legislation and narrowing of NDAs. It’s very important. I feel like they just encourage a culture of misbehavior and it shouldn’t be."
Coburn served on the Washington cheerleading squad from 1999-2001. She then worked as the group’s marketing and events coordinator until 2007 where she was then promoted to marketing director. Her petition had over 40,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.