Amid ‘very difficult’ climate, Donaldson steps into historic role with Washington Football Team

From anchor to reporter in television broadcasting, Julie Donaldson has done it all. And now, she is about to make history as the Senior Vice President of Media and Content for the Washington Football Team.

Included among her many roles in her new job, Donaldson will be part of the team’s game day radio broadcast. According to the team, Donaldson will be the first woman to be a regular on-air personality in an NFL radio broadcast booth.

“It’s not lost on me the magnitude of that, and how important I think that will eventually be,” said Donaldson. “But I don’t think about that too much. I’m hired to do a job. And it’s kind of a shame that it’s the first time a female has been hired to do this job, because I don’t see why we haven’t gotten through that sooner. I just want to do this job well and have fun, and hopefully it does open the door for more dreams.”

While Donaldson will not handle the play-by-play on the team’s radio broadcast, she is charged with finding the replacement for Larry Michael, who recently retired after 16 years in that role.

A day after Michael left the team, he was mentioned with other former club officials in a Washington Post article that detailed allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct within the franchise.

“Right now, the climate around the Washington football team is very difficult,” said Donaldson. “There’s a very dark cloud over this franchise, but plans are already in place to change things.

I have discussed with other women leaders in the organization about how we want to get to know the employees and the women in this group to find out what they want and how we can encourage and nurture their dreams, personally and professionally.”

Being around the Washington Football Team is nothing new for Donaldson, who extensively covered the team and hosted NBC Sports Washington’s pre- and postgame shows on game days. Donaldson said her past experience with the team was positive and has helped energize her for her new opportunity.

“I’ve never had an issue with any players in this locker room,” said Donaldson. “The players didn’t look at me any differently than any other reporter coming up and asking a question. Going forward, in general, it is important to have education and awareness about how we can have fun conversations that are not disrespectful.”

Donaldson credits the leadership of new head coach Ron Rivera with helping to guide the Washington Football Team through a turbulent time. Rivera was just hired in January, and then in March, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed everyone’s approaches to life and work.

While still at NBC Sports Washington, Donaldson watched Rivera keep his new team together, even though he was limited by virtual meetings and workouts. Rivera then was thrust front and center as the team announced plans to change its name and has publicly addressed the importance of creating the proper culture within the franchise in the wake of the Post article.

“If you talk to any of us, players past or even current ones, they all say that what he does really well is he gets the best out of his players and he understands where their strengths are, what they can do well,” said Donaldson. “I think he’s really going to be able to turn this team around. There’s a lot of young talent, and that’s one of the reasons why the coach came in here, is because there’s talent that he can grow and develop with.”

The team should also give Donaldson plenty to talk about. She is a gifted storyteller and looks forward to not only being involved in the radio booth, but also with all of the team’s television and digital productions.

“I’ve got seven, maybe nine, linear TV shows, we’re rethinking rebranding that we want to put out there for people,” said Donaldson. “Of course, we have the radio broadcasts that we’re going to be streaming as well. What I really appreciate is that I’m being brought in to be creative, to be a leader, to have a voice, and that’s what I love is because it doesn’t limit me to one little area.”

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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