DC Attorney General Sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders, NFL

DC Attorney General Sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders, NFL


At the culmination of an investigation that began more than a year ago, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine’s (D) office said Thursday it had filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, franchise owner Daniel Snyder, the NFL and the commissioner. Roger Goodell, accusing them of colluding to deceive and mislead customers about an investigation into the team’s workplace to maintain its revenue-seeking fan base.

“For years, the team and its owner did very real, very serious damage and then lied about it to dodge responsibility and continue to rake in profits,” Racine told a news conference. “So far they seem to have got away with it. But that stops today.

DC Attorney General Karl Racine (D) accused COs, Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell of colluding to mislead DC residents. (Video: Reuters)

The lawsuit was filed in the Civil Division of DC Superior Court. It alleges that the team and the league violated DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act with “misrepresentations to the public, omissions and ambiguities of material facts.” Racine’s office said it was seeking “financial penalties under the CPPA for each incident in which COs, Mr. Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Goodell have lied to residents of the district since July 2020,” adding that the defendants “could face millions of dollars in penalties.

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Racine’s office said it would also seek a court order to force the NFL to release the findings of a previous investigation, led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, into the team’s workplace.

“In the face of public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment within the team, Defendants made a series of public statements to convince consumers in the District that this dysfunctional and misogynistic conduct was limited and that they were cooperating fully with an independent investigation,” the lawsuit states. “These statements were false and calculated to mislead consumers into continuing to financially support the team without thinking they were supporting such misconduct.”

Both the team and the NFL have denied the allegations.

“Over two years ago, Dan and Tanya Snyder acknowledged that an unacceptable work culture had existed within their organization for several years and they repeatedly apologized for allowing this to happen,” they said. John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, attorneys for the commanders. a statement released by the team. “We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth. 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 to establish, once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction. .”

Goodell said the league did not release Wilkinson’s findings because of confidentiality promises made to witnesses. The NFL said in July 2021 that based on the findings, the team was fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the franchise’s co-CEO, would oversee day-to-day operations. commanders for an indefinite period.

“The independent investigation into workplace misconduct among Washington commanders was conducted thoroughly and comprehensively by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday in a statement. “Following the completion of the investigation, the NFL released a summary of Ms. Wilkinson’s findings and issued a record fine to the club and its owners. 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.

The NFL and Goodell said the findings of a second investigation led by attorney Mary Jo White will be made public.

Daniel Snyder has promised to support the NFL’s investigation. His actions tell a different story.

The lawsuit comes as Racine prepares to leave office, and it stems from an investigation that began in the fall of 2021. Snyder and the commanders are also being investigated by the House Committee on Oversight and reform and by the office of Jason S. Miyares (R), Attorney General of Virginia.

Additionally, investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia questioned witnesses about allegations of financial impropriety involving the team, according to several people familiar with the situation. The team denied committing any financial irregularities.

Racine’s office has no criminal authority in the matter.

The lawsuit says he “holds Washington, Snyder, NFL and Commissioner Goodell commanders to account for public statements, ambiguities and omissions that tend to mislead consumers in the district in the form of injunctions , civil penalties and restitution”.

DC’s consumer protection laws allow for a fine of up to $5,000 for each misrepresentation, Racine said.

Racine said Snyder, the team, Goodell and the league “have every right to respond to the complaint” and added, “They can request that our case be dismissed. We will issue subpoenas. We will request testimony under oath — depositions. I promise. Let me give you a hint: the depositions probably won’t happen on a yacht, but at a conference in the District of Columbia, because no one is above of the law. “

Commanders said in a statement Wednesday that Racine “seems more interested in making headlines, based on off-the-wall legal theories, than doing the hard work to make the streets safe” and cited the August shooting in Washington of Brian Robinson Jr., a rookie running back for the team. Later Wednesday night, team president Jason Wright said in a statement that commanders should have separated the issues.

“It’s customary for bullies to try to intimidate victims,” ​​Racine said Thursday. “It is customary for bullies to try to intimidate even officials. I looked at this comment frankly. It was not surprising. I held my fire because I knew the audience would catch up with us. And boy, oh boy… did the audience get our backs.

Daniel Snyder plans to sell Washington Commanders

Because DC is not a state, adult felony prosecutions in the city are handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office rather than the Attorney General’s Office.

Racine announced last year that he would not seek a third term. DC attorney Brian Schwalb was elected Tuesday to succeed him. Schwalb won a three-way race in June, with Racine’s endorsement, for the Democratic nomination and was unopposed in Tuesday’s election. The bureau includes more than 700 attorneys and staff and is responsible for enforcing DC law through criminal and civil means.

“I’m pretty confident this case will keep moving forward,” Racine said.

As the district’s first elected attorney general, Racine’s tenure has included lawsuits and actions large and small that fall within the limited scope of his office. Racine went after negligent landlords and unscrupulous businesses, emphasizing the protection of tenants and consumers.

But it also took bigger swings. In recent years, he has filed lawsuits against Facebook, Amazon, DC’s Roman Catholic clergy and President Donald Trump. He filed a federal lawsuit against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over the Jan. 6 uprising and recently teamed up with attorneys general in California and Illinois to stop grocery chain Albertsons , owner of Safeway, to pay $4 billion to shareholders ahead of a proposal. merger with Kroger.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said in a statement Thursday: “Today’s civil complaint … is further evidence of what we have known for a long time: that commanders and the NFL engaged in deception and lies designed to cover up the team’s decades of sexual harassment and abuse, which impacted not only the victims of that abuse, but consumers as well of the District of Columbia. The filing of this lawsuit also marks an important step in validating the experiences of the brave women and men who have come forward to share their experiences and in achieving, for the first time, a level of transparency on the extent of the misconduct.

Megan Imbert, a former producer in the team’s broadcast service, attended Racine’s press conference on Thursday.

“Honestly, the past two and a half years has been kind of the time we’ve been waiting for,” she said. “We seek transparency, accountability. … But basically, I really want to see Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell responsible for what I think is a cover-up.

Commanders announced last week that Daniel and Tanya Snyder had hired an investment bank to “review potential deals” related to the franchise. The commanders did not say whether the Snyders planned to sell the entire franchise or a minority stake. A team spokesperson said: “We are exploring all options.”

Among those mentioned as potential buyers for the team are Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post; music mogul Jay-Z, a potential partner for Bezos in a bid; Mat Ishbia, President and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage; and media entrepreneur Byron Allen. Actor Matthew McConaughey is exploring the possibility of joining or forming an investment group to bid, a person familiar with the matter has said.

“The way the law works is that legal faults committed during a given period must be justified, whether or not there is a sale of the franchise,” Racine said Thursday. “This lawsuit will continue. There will be accountability until it’s settled. And if it’s settled, we’ll tell you everything we find.

Michael Brice-Saddler and Liz Clarke contributed to this report.

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