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Thursday, October 21, 2021

OPINION:

Tell me which one of these happened where:

An employee pinched a woman in the building and told her she had an “ass like a wagon” while he pursued her for a date.


An employee grabbed a woman’s hair and told her, “You have nice hair and pretty brown eyes.” Then he asked another employee in the building, “Have you ever grabbed a woman’s hair like that when you’re having sex.”

Two instances of sexual harassment against two different women in two different workplaces. You might think there would be a connection between the two victims of sympathy and support.

So why hasn’t the NFL’s head of security, former Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, spoken out about what happened to the women involved with the Washington Football Team who suffered the same despicable harassment that Lanier suffered when she served as an officer in — and eventually the boss of — the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington?

When the NFL, which did not respond to requests for comment on this column, decided to keep the details secret of the so-called investigation by Beth Wilkinson, spurred by Washington Post reporting, into the toxic workplace of the Washington Football Team, why didn’t Lanier step forward and say that’s not acceptable? In the town where she was once the symbol of law and order?

After all, when she was hired by the league, Lanier declared one of her responsibilities was to change the perception that the NFL treated women like second-class citizens.

“I’m hoping this hire means something to young women in terms of fairness and opportunity,” she told the Washington Post. “For people to assume that the NFL is not fair — or it’s a man’s club or not committed to (addressing) issues like domestic violence — I don’t feel that way inside this organization. That perception is for me to change.”

I guess that perception only comes into play when it applies to players — not owners.

That perception is in the sewer as a result of the league’s refusal to release the details of the Wilkinson investigation, coupled with the leaks of the racist and misogynistic emails between former Washington president and general manager Bruce Allen and former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, most of which remain hidden as well.

You can argue that this didn’t fall under Lanier’s responsibilities as director of security.

But she made herself the flag-bearer for changing the idea that the NFL mistreats women when she was hired. Her silence now speaks volumes about how co-opted she and other women who have championed female victims, including defending themselves, have been once drawing a lucrative league paycheck.

“These are sports people; their expertise is very clearly football,” Lanier told the Post in 2017. “They’ve reached out to people with the expertise in matters of domestic violence, sexual assault … They are committed to seeing that this league is not seen as one that condones, supports or hides domestic violence. They are committed to making sure that is not only not the way it is — but not the way it’s perceived.

“That’s our job right now: to make the perception change. But perception is very hard to change.”

If that was her goal, she‘s come up sadly short. 

Lanier used the hiring of Lisa Friel, former chief of the sex crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, as an example of changing the league’s culture. In a statement released by the league about the conclusion of the Wilkinson report in July, Friel declared that “the culture at the club was very toxic, and it fell far short of the NFL’s values and we hold ownership to a higher standard.

Then she said this, shamefully: “We do not have a written report from her (Wilkinson).”

Back to those two incidents at the beginning of this column. The first one happened to a reporter covering the Washington Football Team, according to the Post. The second one happened to Lanier at MPD.

In 1995, Lanier charged in a report that the MPD supervisor who harassed her “asked her for dates, her pager number, asked her personal questions. He has described his sexual encounters with other women, told her of how he has received {sex acts} in his office … made crude remarks in reference to sex and has even gone as far as wrapping his arms around her.”

There is a petition circulating on change.org with more than 40,000 signatures demanding that “the NFL must do the right thing and make the sexual misconduct investigation of the WFT public AND hold Dan Snyder accountable for the history of serial sexual harassment within his organization.”

How can Lanier be silent when there are victims of the same mistreatment she suffered who still feel their voices aren’t being heard by the league?

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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