May 29, 2023
DC AG Files Civil Lawsuit Against Commanders, Snyder, NFL, Goodell |  TSN

DC AG Files Civil Lawsuit Against Commanders, Snyder, NFL, Goodell | TSN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were sued by the District of Columbia on Thursday for charges they were involved in lying about an investigation into “sexual misconduct and an ongoing hostile work environment.” ‘ working together within the team to deceive fans.

The individual club and the league as a whole were also named in the consumer protection civil lawsuit, which DC Attorney General Karl Racine said was based on his office’s investigation that began in the fall of 2021.

Racine said the defendants collectively “misled the public” about the content and process surrounding attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s work culture, which began in 2020. His office is seeking a court order that will force the league to release Wilkinson’s results.

“For years, the team and its owner have done very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to evade accountability,” Racine said, also pointing the finger at Goodell and the NFL. “They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their image and keep the profits rolling.”

Racine said that although the team trains in Virginia and plays its games in Maryland, it has strong ties to Washington and violates DC consumer rights. Racine said the capital’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act provides for fines of up to $5,000 per lie — which his office estimates could result in millions of dollars in penalties.

When asked about a parallel review of commanders’ finances and withholding of season ticket holder funds, Racine said, “There’ll be more news on that next week.” The House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is one of a few other probes into Snyder in April referred a case to the Federal Trade Commission about possible financial irregularities at the club and cited questionable business practices related to ticket revenue.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wilkinson’s investigation was thorough and comprehensive, the league publicly released a summary and imposed a record $10 million fine on the team and its owner.

“We reject the legally baseless and factually baseless allegations made today by the DC Attorney General against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell, and we will vigorously defend these allegations,” McCarthy wrote in an email.

Lawyers representing the commanders said Snyder and his wife and co-owner Tanya acknowledged an unacceptable work culture more than two years ago and “apologized many times for allowing it to do so.”

“We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth,” Commanders Counsel John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement sent through a team spokesman. “Although many innuendos, half-truths and lies are repeated in the lawsuit, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organization – for the first time – in court and establish once and for all what is fact and what is fiction.”

Thursday’s filing in DC Superior Court says Snyder has “cultivated an environment … that glorifies sexual harassment and punishes victims for speaking up.” According to the complaint, “Team members say the workplace was ‘like the mafia’ … and created a culture of fear and paranoia.”

“The misconduct didn’t just go up; it originated there,” the court filings read, noting that a former longtime team leader said employees referred to Snyder as the “chief harassment officer.”

The complaint outlines how the attorney general’s office says Snyder was accused of “continuing to perpetuate the team’s culture of sexual harassment,” such as “bringing women identified as sex workers to work-related events,” the team’s cheerleading program Oversee teams and “exercise control over everything from which cheerleading candidates were edited, what photos were used in the cheerleading calendar, to how revealing the cheerleading uniforms would be.”

The team remains the subject of several other ongoing investigations, including by the Virginia Attorney General, Congress and the NFL. Goodell said there was no timeline for when the league’s review of former US attorney Mary Jo White would be completed.

Racine said the DC Attorney General will issue subpoenas and take testimony under oath. He shot at Snyder’s virtual testimony before the House Oversight Committee, saying that testimony “probably will not take place on a yacht but in a conference room in the District of Columbia.”

The Snyders announced last week that they have hired Bank of America Securities to sell some or all of the team. A team spokesman said they were “assessing all options” regarding the organization, which Forbes values ​​at $5.6 billion.

“If he sells the team,” Racine said, “he’s still a defendant.”

Racine said the lawsuit will be brought in civil court because his office has no criminal jurisdiction over the matter. He leaves office on January 2 and expects his successor, Brian Schwalb, to continue the case.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said the civil lawsuit “is further evidence of what we have known for a long time: that both the Commanders and the NFL engaged in deception and lies in order to… that of the team to hide decades of sexual harassment and abuse that have not only impacted victims of that abuse, but consumers as well.”

Former club employees Megan Imbert and Melanie Coburn attended the press conference and Imbert said she and others who worked for the team had sought accountability and transparency. She thinks this is an important step.

“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for,” said Imbert. “We’ve been through a lot even in the last 2 1/2 years and it’s been scary but I think the law is on our side and I’m just looking forward to what the future holds. This is the most important day of the last 2 1/2 years for me.”


AP National Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.


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