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.
Attorney General Karl Racine announced the civil complaint at a news conference, saying Snyder, Goodell, the team and league colluded to deceive D.C. residents about an investigation into the organization's workplace culture.
"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, adding Goodell and the NFL misled the public. "They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their images and let the profits continue to roll."
Racine said the team and league violated D.C. consumers' rights based on what they knew about the organization's workplace misconduct, alleging 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.
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 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."
Racine took a shot at Snyder's virtual deposition with the House Oversight Committee by saying depositions are "not likely to occur on a yacht but in a conference room in the District of Columbia."
Messages sent to the team and league office seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Snyder and his wife, Tanya, 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 that Forbes values at $5.6 billion. Racine said Snyder is still a defendant, even if he sells the team, because he owned it at the time of the workplace misconduct.
Racine said the lawsuit is happening in civil court because his office does not have criminal jurisdiction on the matter. He is leaving office Jan. 2 and expects successor Brian Schwalb to continue the case.
Four posters flanked Racine during his announcement, outlining some of the history of the team's rebranding efforts that included references to D.C. and its flag and the history of the NFL's investigation into the organization's workplace culture.
"Dan Snyder assured fans that he would fully cooperate with the investigation and the results could be trusted," one of the posters read. "That was a lie: He repeatedly attempted to interfere, and the fans could not trust results that were never made public. Because Snyder had a veto."
The findings of Beth Wilkinson's investigation were not released in July 2021 when the league fined the team $10 million for having a toxic workplace culture. The final poster read: "Fans' outrage intensified when it became clear that Snyder lied to them: There would be no transparency and no reckoning. That impacted consumer spending decisions."
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."
They added, "The filing of this complaint also marks an important step in validating the experiences of the brave women and men who came forward and in achieving, for the first time, a level of transparency into the scope of the misconduct."
Former Washington employee Megan Imbert attended the news conference and said it was the moment she has been waiting for and the most significant development over the past 2 1/2 years.
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