Julie Donaldson opens up about her new role, as a woman, with the Redskins

Chris Lingebach
July 22, 2020 - 6:45 pm

When Julie Donaldson was first offered her new position with the Redskins, leading the organization's radio broadcast crew and its media and content divisions, she understood it was coming from an organization that's fresh off of rampant sexual harassment allegations.

It gave her pause, to take time to think if they were tapping her for the right reasons, if she even wanted to do it.

"Oh yeah. 100 percent," Donaldson told The Sports Junkies Wednesday morning. "I woke up Thursday and I didn't sleep at all that night, just really contemplating this and understanding the magnitude, understanding that these jobs, they don't come up. And my boss is like, 'I don't want you to look back and regret this.'"

"It's scary. There's a lot of terror heading into that," she said. "But there should be a certain amount of excitement that says 'you're ready for this.' So I had a lot of people really talking me up to believe that I am prepared for this, and I am ready for this, and it is the time to take it.

"But then of course, during the time of all this going on, and as a female, I hurt for those women. I know what that's like. You know, you don't get 20 years in this business without having your own experiences. You guys know that I went through a terrible, horrifying incident maybe 12 years ago that I had to fight really hard, and it took a lot of courage to speak up."

Donaldson spoke to other women in the organization to gauge their impressions, to see if the type of change from within that she hopes to help bring was even a possibility.

"I said, 'What happened? How did this go by for so long with so many, and it didn't get brought up to attention?'" Donaldson recalled. "And they said, look, they want make sure that their legacy is to help the women. They want to make sure that the environment is nice to work in, that people go and they respect each other, they trust each other, and they can get back to it being a fun place instead of having to defend (who) they work for and what they do."

"And a lot of people in that building are new," she said. "And so everything that they're having to deal with was from the old regime, was from people that aren't there any more, and that's not fair to the work that they want to do going forward."

After further convincing, Donaldson eventually accepted the position, believing the organization is committed to creating an environment that is fair to everyone in it, believing that she can play a role in bringing about that necessary change, for the women there now and for those who will follow them.

In her new role as Senior Vice President of Media & Content, Donaldson steps in with a monumental task: replacing Larry Michael as the longtime voice of the Redskins. 

Michael was a part of that old regime, the one which bred a culture which led more than a dozen women to chronicle their abuse to The Washington Post, which uncovered rampant harassment in an expose that not only painted the organization in a negative light, once again, but much worse, proved the Redskins have fostered an environment that's unsafe for women.

After 16 years as the "voice of the Redskins," Michael abruptly retired last week, one day before being named among those accused of improper behavior in The Post's expose.

Donaldson says she's been empowered to make the decision on her own, a responsibility she doesn't take lightly and wants to make sure is rooted in proper due diligence.

"I have to pick somebody that's gonna buy into what we're doing and believe that they can make it work," she said. "Somebody that I will organically have fun with, and that's what it's supposed to be, and go towards this generation that's consuming games differently than they ever have before, and really appealing to that and making it engaging."

"So I'm all in," she said. "I've already talked to a couple of people for the analyst and we kind of have our ideas for that of what I want to go, but again, I want to do my due diligence."

Asked if all analyst roles are up for grabs (Chris Cooley and Rick 'Doc' Walker remain employed by the team), Donaldson said, "Yeah. It's my decision to make this work, and to make it work for what the fans are gonna want, for what the vision is of Dan Snyder."

"And he was very clear with me," she said. "He said, 'Look. We have to change the way that we've been doing it. We have to rethink the way that we've always been doing it.' And you know, it's been done the same way for 100 years. He goes, 'So I really want you to push the envelope on it.' He's like, 'I'm backing you to go as far as you can. If it doesn't work, OK. We'll readjust.'"

Donaldson has yet to weigh in publicly on on one of the organization's most pressing concerns, finding a new nickname after 87 years of Redskins football. Nor would she tip her hand to any insight into the leading candidates for a new name.

"That's not the high priority to me," she said. "What is, is what is it going to represent behind that name? Especially as I take on this role. And those are the conversations I had."

"Whatever they pick, I'll get behind, as long as I also know that that brand and that name stands for something," she said, "so fans have something to get proud in going forward, and it's not just a name, but it's more than that."

"I don't know. I wish I could tell you and drop the scoop, but I don't know what they're gonna do," she said. "I just know that they're having constant meetings to make sure they get it right."

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