Attorneys for more than three dozen former Washington Commanders employees called for the removal of “sexualized and offensive photographs” of the organization’s former cheerleaders from all official congressional records.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz sent a clearly worded letter to James Comer (R-Kentucky), member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, saying their clients were “humiliated and outraged by the GOP’s reckless distribution of these photos.” .
The photos in question were originally sent by the team’s former general manager and team president Bruce Allen to former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and several other men. Fifty-seven of the emails were distributed as part of a memorandum by Republicans Dec. 7 following the release of the committee’s Democrat-led investigation into Commanders owner Dan Snyder and the organization’s workplace.
Banks told ESPN that the inclusion of those documents was “outrageous.” She called the taking of those photos “unnecessary, inappropriate and unprofessional”.
A Republican adviser to the committee said the images were not and would not be part of the records of Congress. The memorandum was distributed to Republican staffers. Numerous media also accepted the memorandum.
The aide said in a statement that Democrats have “selected facts” to back up their narrative and that the Republicans’ memorandum was intended to show more evidence to consider.
The statement also said, “Prior to the distribution of the internal memo, the committee staff took steps to ensure that all sensitive images featuring cheerleaders were redacted and their identities kept confidential.”
Banks and Katz also sent their letter to outgoing Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). Comer will chair the committee next month.
Last week, Republicans released the 57 emails and documents that contained images of former Washington cheerleaders whose faces were blacked out.
“These emails reveal that there was a toxic workplace under Allen’s leadership — one that has since been reformed based on independent third-party reviews of team culture,” the memo said. “Committee Democrats have not identified or presented any similar emails or documents identifying racist, misogynist, or homophobic behavior by Dan Snyder.”
Melanie Coburn, a former Washington cheerleader and director of marketing, said that while two of the cheerleader photos were from a calendar, others were from pre-editing that was placed in binders to be presented to owners and had not yet been released.
“It’s more a question of when [Allen] got access to them and what condition those photos were in,” Coburn said.
“These women are devastated again. They feel powerless, they feel silenced, and they are re-traumatized.”
Coburn said the inclusion of those images was a “slap in the face” to legislation Maloney introduced called the Professional Images Protection Act, which “would protect against misuse of employee images by employers and ensure employees have a say in how and when their images are used for business purposes.”
“These are our elected officials in relation to a purportedly official document releasing suggestively sexualized images as part of their report, apparently to embarrass a specific individual with whom Dan Snyder is having an argument,” Banks told ESPN.
In the letter to Comer, Banks and Katz, who represent more than 40 former team members, said the inclusion of the former cheerleaders’ pictures caused “additional and unnecessary pain.” Coburn said some of the women involved in the pictures were also part of salacious videos from photoshoots allegedly done for Snyder.
“These photos, which show women’s breasts, buttocks and genital areas,” they wrote in the letter, “were apparently circulated to further team owner Daniel Snyder’s persistent but discredited narrative that Bruce Allen and not Mr. Snyder Hostile and misogynist team culture is responsible for sexuality.
“Our customers also want assurance that those photos will never be used in that way again.”