DC Attorney General’s Office Files Civil Lawsuit Against NFL, Commanders

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
November 10, 2022Sports News

Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine on Thursday announced his office has filed a civil lawsuit against Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, the NFL, and Commissioner Roger Goodell for allegedly colluding to deceive fans in a bid to protect its profits and maintain a strong fan base.

In a criminal complaint (pdf), Racine accused Snyder, the team, the NFL, and Goodell, of lying to residents of the District of Columbia—the heart of the Commanders’ fanbase—about an inquiry into “sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment” within the team.

“For years, the team and its owner have caused very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to dodge accountability and to continue to rake in profits,” Racine said during a press conference on Thursday.

One of several examples presented in the complaint alleges that Snyder had “encouraged” sexual behavior and “brought women believed to be sex workers to work-related events.” In turn, Snyder’s actions led other powerful men within the team to do the same and they didn’t face any punishment.

“Executives and other employees routinely sexually harassed and objectified female employees and the [Commanders’] cheerleaders, and they faced no recourse from Snyder when he was made aware of their misconduct,” according to the complaint.

Goodell and the NFL, meanwhile, are being accused of deceiving the public about an investigation the league conducted into the allegations of harassment and toxic culture that the Commanders were accused of.

Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a press conference prior to Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Miami Downtown in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 29, 2020. (Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Racine said that when the NFL took over the investigation from the Commanders to help ensure it was independent, the two parties entered into an agreement that gave Snyder the ability to block the release of any information he chose.

The full report on the investigation, which was led by U.S. lawyer Beth Wilkinson, was never released by the league. Racine said his office will pursue a court order that will force the league to release the full report.

“Throughout the investigation, Snyder actively sought to interfere with it, including intimidating and suppressing witnesses. Then, the NFL chose to shield the results of the investigation from the public,” Racine said.

While Racine did not specify the damages the lawsuit is seeking, he noted that the U.S. Capital’s “Consumer Protection Procedures Act” provides for fines of up to $5,000 for each lie—which his office estimated could result in millions of dollars in penalties.

Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, told ESPN in a statement that the league rejects “the legally unsound and factually baseless allegations” made by Racine against Goodell and the NFL, adding that the league “will vigorously defend against those claims.”

McCarthy also said that Wilkinson’s investigation was thorough and it was comprehensively conducted, noting that the league publicly released a summary and imposed a record-setting fine of $10 million on the team and its ownership.

Lawyers representing the Commanders said Snyder and his wife and co-owner, Tanya, acknowledged an unacceptable workplace culture more than two years ago and “have apologized many times for allowing that to happen.”

Team co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder pose for a photo with former team members during the announcement of the Washington Football Team’s name change to the Washington Commanders at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on Feb. 2, 2022. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

“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 spokesperson. “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 Snyder’s also announced last week that they hired Bank of America Securities to look into selling part or all of the team. Racine noted on Thursday that if Snyder decides to sell the team, the investigation would still continue because the allegations occurred when he was the owner.

Racine said the lawsuit is happening in civil court because his office does not have criminal jurisdiction on the matter. He is leaving office on Jan. 2 and expects his successor, Brian Schwalb, to continue the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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