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Latest filing with NFL shows Commanders making strides in reforming workplace

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ASHBURN — The NFL received the third in a continuing series of reports on the Washington Commanders organizational culture last week, one of the conditions imposed after the league’s investigation into alleged rampant sexual misconduct by team executives.

The report, which surveyed employees anonymously and was obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, gave the team high marks in its efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture, but noted that media attention around continued investigations into owner Dan Snyder is obscuring that work in the eyes of employees.

The summary read, in part: “Our confidential interviews confirmed trends seen in the (previous report): under the leadership of (Coach Ron Rivera) and his team, Football Operations has established a strong-values driven culture and created what many described as a ‘family’ with his staff.”

Jason Wright, team president, also received strong marks, particularly for building diversity in the executive ranks.

In an interview with The Times-Dispatch, Wright said he wants people to understand that co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder have given his team broad latitude to enact change.

“If people can take anything from (the report), it’s that we have been empowered to do this,” he said. “It’s a credit to Dan and Tanya. People don’t like to talk about that, but we have been able to do this sort of thing. And that doesn’t happen with most owners in the NFL.”

Some of the other takeaways from the 15-page report:

High turnover in past year: The report noted 68 voluntary departures of employees since November 2020.

That’s a larger number than would normally be expected, but Wright said he believes that the turnover is both necessary and positive.

“(It’s) a turnover of people to bring in talent that’s heart-driven and share the same values and are innovative and thoughtful,” he said.

He added: “It is a sign of progress. And the people we have in the organization now are on the same page, share values, are innovative and hard working, and are in it to rebuild in the ways that we want to. And it takes a certain person that’s mission driven to do that. I feel really confident about the people we have in the building.”

External chaos still swirls: Employees noted that they felt the continued focus on congressional and NFL investigations into Dan Snyder have kept the story of the team’s transformation from being fully told.

Per the report, women currently comprise 31% of the team’s workforce, and people of color comprise 39%. The team also celebrates “Everyday Champions,” diverse staff who contribute to the success of the team, during heritage months.

Wright believes ultimately the scoreboard will show that his team’s efforts are successful, even if they aren’t widely publicized.

“One of the things I think is important is, we have real business progress that our team knows about, the growth of the season-ticket member base, the momentum in suite sales, what’s happened in sponsorships and year-over-year growth in sponsorships despite the headwinds,” he said. “So the best thing I can do is anchor our team in the facts, and remind them, this is the outcome of your work. Those are our, like, division wins and playoff wins on the business side, and it’s anchoring them on that and saying, ‘You can point to this and you know it’s going well.’

“So I want to point you to that, then trust that eventually the external narrative has to reflect the lived reality. Eventually the truth rises to the top.”

Real HR team now exists: One of the major takeaways from the report by independent counsel Beth Wilkinson was that for years Washington did not have a functioning HR department. Employees now give generally high marks to the department and its function.

The team also runs a number of training sessions for employees, including one in February on “Becoming an Ally to All” that was attended by “almost 100 people ... including senior leadership and Tanya Snyder.”

Entertainment team gives high marks: The report noted that 220 people applied for the Command Force entertainment team this year, up from 120 last year.

A survey given to members of the group showed that they felt they were part of the team in a way they hadn’t the previous year.

“We have five organizational values: Family, Impact, Growth, Honor, Trust,” Wright said. “Everybody is in this together, and we are reinforcing and supporting one another, and there’s not haves and have-nots.”

Del Rio situation handled well: The team faced a high-profile public relations situation this summer when defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio referred to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol as a “dust-up” in asking why similar scrutiny wasn’t applied to protests after George Floyd’s death.

Del Rio was fined $100,000 by Rivera.

The report said: “Del Rio also apologized personally to the players and his colleagues in a team meeting. Most staff we interviewed expressed the view that Coach handled the situation well.”

The report was compiled by Vestry Laight.

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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