Snyder, Commanders, NFL, Goodell sues DC attorney general

Snyder, Commanders, NFL, Goodell sues DC attorney general

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were sued Thursday by the District of Columbia, accused of colluding to mislead fans by lying about an investigation into ‘sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment’ at the team.

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

Racine said the defendants jointly “misled the public” about the content and procedure surrounding attorney Beth Wilkinson’s review of the team’s work culture that began in 2020. Her office is seeking an order from the court that will compel the league to release Wilkinson’s findings.

“For years, the team and its owner did very real, very serious damage and then lied about it to dodge responsibility,” Racine said, also pointing the finger at Goodell and the NFL. “They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their images and let the profits keep rolling.”

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

Asked about a parallel review of commanders’ finances and the withholding of money from season ticket holders, Racine said, “There will be more news on that next week.” The United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is carrying out one of the few other investigations into Snyder, has referred a case regarding the club’s potential financial improprieties to the Federal Trade Commission. in April, citing questionable business practices related to ticket revenue.

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

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

Lawyers representing the commanders said Snyder and his wife and co-owner, Tanya, recognized an unacceptable work culture more than two years ago and “have repeatedly apologized for allowing it to happen.”

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

The case filed Thursday in DC Superior Court says Snyder “cultivated an environment … that glorifies sexual harassment and punishes victims for speaking out.” According to the complaint, “Team employees say the workplace was ‘like the Mafia’…creating a culture of fear and paranoia.”

“The misconduct didn’t just go to the top; it was born there,” the court filing said, noting that a longtime former team executive said employees called Snyder the “boss.” harassment”.

The complaint describes the ways in which the attorney general’s office says Snyder was accused of “further cultivating the team’s culture of sexual harassment,” such as bringing “women suspected of being sex workers to events related to the job,” overseeing the team’s cheerleading program and exercising “control over everything from which cheerleading contestants made the cut, to what photos were used in the cheerleading schedule, how well the uniforms of cheerleading would be telling”.

The team is 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 former US Attorney Mary Jo White’s review on behalf of the league will be terminated.

Racine said the DC Attorney General’s office will issue subpoenas and seek sworn testimony. He took a picture of Snyder’s virtual testimony with the House Oversight Committee saying the depositions “probably won’t occur on a yacht but in a District of Columbia conference room.”

The Snyders announced last week that they had hired Bank of America Securities to consider selling part or all of the team. A spokesperson for the team said they were “exploring all options” when it comes to 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 is proceeding in civil court because his office does not have criminal jurisdiction over the matter. He leaves office on Jan. 2 and expects his successor Brian Schwalb to continue the business.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said the civil complaint “is further evidence of what we’ve known for a long time: that commanders and the NFL engaged in deceptions and lies intended to cover up the team’s decades of sexual harassment and abuse, which impacted not only the victims of this abuse, but consumers as well.

Former club employees Megan Imbert and Melanie Coburn attended the press conference, and Imbert said she and others who work for the team seek accountability and transparency. She considers this to be an important step.

“It’s kind of the moment we’ve been waiting for,” Imbert said. “We’ve been through a lot, even in the last two and a half years, and it’s been scary, but I think the law is on our side and I just can’t wait to see what the future holds. This is the most important day of the past 2 and a half years for me.

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AP National Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.

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