The attorney general for the District of Columbia said Thursday his office is filing a civil consumer protection lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, owner Dan Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, alleging the four parties colluded to deceive D.C. residents about an investigation into the Commanders’ workplace culture.
The NFL said Thursday it rejects the “legally unsound and factually baseless allegations” made by Attorney General Karl Racine and would “vigorously defend” itself.
“The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm,” the league said in a statement. “Following the completion of the investigation, the NFL made public a summary of Ms. Wilkinson’s findings and imposed a record-setting fine against the club and its ownership. We reject the legally unsound and factually baseless allegations made today by the D.C. Attorney General against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell and will vigorously defend against those claims.”
Racine alleged during Thursday’s news conference that the team and league violated D.C. consumers’ rights based on what they knew about the organization’s workplace misconduct, saying Snyder lied about his knowledge of the situation. While not specifying the damages he’s seeking, Racine said the law provides for fines of up to $5,000 per lie.
“For years, the team and its owner have caused very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to dodge accountability,” Racine said, also alleging that Goodell and the NFL misled the public.
Asked about a parallel review into the team’s finances and withholding money from season-ticket holders, Racine said, “There’ll be more news on that next week.” Racine’s office launched an investigation into the team around the time the U.S. House Committee for Oversight and Reform referred its case, which initially centered on workplace culture issues, to the Federal Trade Commission for potential financial improprieties. The team has denied “any suggestion of financial impropriety.”
The Commanders said in a statement on Thursday that they “welcome this opportunity to defend the organization.”
“Over two years ago, Dan and Tanya Snyder acknowledged that an unacceptable workplace culture had existed within their organization for several years and they have apologized many times for allowing that to happen,” the team said. “We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth. Although the lawsuit repeats a lot of innuendo, half-truths and lies, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organization — for the first time — in a court of law and to establish, once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction.”
The team is the subject of multiple ongoing investigations, including by the attorneys general of D.C. and Virginia, Congress and the league. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy last week said former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White’s review on behalf of the league is ongoing and there is no timetable for when it will be completed.
“We will issue subpoenas,” Racine said. “We will seek testimony under oath.”
Lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said the civil complaint “is further evidence of what we’ve long known: that both the Commanders and the NFL have engaged in deception and lies designed to conceal the team’s decades of sexual harassment and abuse, which has impacted not only the victims of that abuse, but also consumers in the District of Columbia.”
The Snyders announced last week they hired Bank of America Securities to look into selling part or all of the team. A team spokesperson said they were “exploring all options” in regards to the organization.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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