DC Attorney General Sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders, NFL
“In the face of public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment at Team, the defendants have issued a series of public statements to reassure District consumers that this dysfunctional and misogynistic behavior has been contained and that they are fully cooperating with the independent investigation.” “, the lawsuit states. “These statements were false and designed to mislead consumers into continuing to financially support the Team without thinking they were endorsing such misconduct.”
The lawsuit was filed in the DC Superior Court Civil Division. It alleges that the team and the league violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act by “public misrepresentations, omissions, and obscurations of material facts.” Racine’s office said it is seeking “financial penalties under the CPPA for each incident in which the commanders, Mr. Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Goodell lied to District residents since July 2020,” adding that the defendants “could face millions of dollars in fines. ”
Racine’s office said it will also seek a court order to compel the NFL to release the findings of a previous investigation, conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson, into the team’s workplace.
“The OAG’s thorough investigation revealed that the commanders, the NFL and their handlers, Mr. Snyder and Commissioner Goodell, worked to prevent District residents from learning the truth and continue to profit,” Racine said in a statement. “They have publicly pledged to fully cooperate with an independent investigation into the toxic work environment and sexual harassment within the Commanders organization and have promised results that fans can trust. But behind the scenes, Mr. Snyder ran a campaign of interference to cover up years of harassment. And the NFL let him do it, betraying the trust of the fans by allowing Mr. Snyder to plead at the end of the investigation into him and the commanders.”
The commanders said in a statement Wednesday that Racine “seems more interested in making splashy headlines, based on outlandish legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of creating safe streets,” and cited Shooting in August in Washington from Brian Robinson Jr., the team’s rookie running back. Later in the evening, Commander President Jason Wright said in a statement the team should have kept the two questions separate.
The action comes as Racine prepares to leave office and results from the investigation began in the fall of 2021. Snyder and the Commanders are also being investigated by the NFL, the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the office of Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares (R).
In addition, investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia interviewed witnesses about allegations of financial irregularities involving the team, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. The team has denied any financial irregularities.
Racine’s office has no criminal jurisdiction over the matter.
Racine said his office “interviewed numerous witnesses, including former Commanders employees who experienced and witnessed harassment” and “reviewed thousands of internal documents produced by the Commanders and the NFL, including emails.”
The lawsuit says it “seeks the Washington Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Goodell to be held accountable for public statements, ambiguities and omissions that tended to mislead District consumers in the form of injunctions, civil penalties and restitution.”
Goodell and the league said they did not release Wilkinson’s findings because of confidentiality promises given to witnesses. The NFL said in July 2021 that, based on those findings, the team was fined $10 million, and Snyder’s wife, Tanya Snyder, the franchise’s co-CEO, will oversee the Commanders’ day-to-day operations indefinitely.
The NFL and Goodell said the findings of the current investigation, led by attorney Mary Jo White, will be made public.
A Commanders spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday: “Less than three months ago, a 23-year-old player on our team was shot multiple times in broad daylight. Despite violent crime spiraling out of control in DC, today the Washington Commanders first learned on Twitter that the DC Attorney General will be holding a press conference tomorrow to ‘make a big announcement’ regarding the organization.”
That statement caught the attention of Robinson’s agent, Ryan Williams of Athletes First, who tweeted Wednesday night: “Until an hour ago, the Commanders handled the Brian Robinson situation with so much care, honesty and class. And I was so grateful for it all. While I know there are great people in that building, the person behind this statement is not one of them.”
The commanders responded with a statement from Wright in which he said the team’s attorneys had “legitimate frustrations” with Racine that “should have been kept separate and apart from the mention” of the shooting.
DC police arrested two teenage suspects — a 17 year old and later a 15 year old – in connection with an Aug. 28 shooting during an attempted robbery along the commercial strip of H Street in Northeast Washington. The 17 year old was charged as a juvenile with assault with intent to rob while armed. The 15 year old, who was 14 years old at the time of the incident, was charged with armed robbery. Police said Friday they were still looking for a third suspect who chased the two teenagers away from the attack.
“Commanders have cooperated fully with the AG’s investigation for nearly a year,” a team spokesman said in a statement earlier Wednesday. “As recently as Monday, the team’s attorney met with the Attorney General who did not suggest at the time that he intended to take any action and, in fact, revealed fundamental misunderstandings of the underlying facts. It is unfortunate that in his final days in office, Mr. Racine seems more interested in making muddled headlines, based on outlandish legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of keeping the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players .”
Because DC is not a state, the prosecution of adults for crimes in the city is handled by the US Attorney’s office, not the Attorney General’s office.
Racine announced last year that he would not run for a third term. D.C. attorney Brian Schwalb was tapped Tuesday to succeed him. Schwalb won the three-way race in June, with Racine’s support, for the Democratic nomination and was unopposed in Tuesday’s election. The office includes more than 700 attorneys and staff members and is responsible for enforcing DC’s criminal and civil laws.
As the District’s first elected attorney general, Racine’s tenure has been marked by lawsuits and actions, large and small, that lie within the limited scope of his office. Locally, Racine has gone after negligent landlords and unscrupulous businesses, with a focus on protecting tenants and consumers.
But he also took bigger swings. In recent years he has continued lawsuits against Facebook, Amazonthe Roman Catholic Clergy in DC and President Donald Trump. He filed a federal lawsuit against the Proud Boys and the Oath after the Jan. 6 revolt and recently teamed up with attorneys general in California and Illinois to block grocery chain Albertsons, which owns Safeway, from paying out $4 billion to shareholders ahead of a proposed merger with grocer Kroger.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said in a statement Wednesday: “Today’s civil lawsuit … is further evidence of what we have long known: that both the quarterbacks and the NFL engaged in deception and lies designed to cover up decades of sexual harassment and abuse by the team, which affected not only the victims of that abuse, but also consumers in the District of Columbia. The filing of this complaint 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 about the extent of the misconduct.”
The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Commanders announced last week that Daniel and Tanya Snyder have hired an investment bank to “consider potential transactions.” related to the franchise. The commanders did not specify whether the Snyders are considering selling the entire franchise or a minority stake. A team spokesman said at the time: “We are exploring all options.”
Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, said Wednesday that the league is not involved in the process of selling the Commanders at this time and does not anticipate whether Snyder will sell all or part of the franchise.
“I would refer you to the club for information regarding any potential transaction,” Miller said during a conference call with reporters. “That’s their decision, of course.”
Among those mentioned as potential buyers of the team are Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post; music mogul Jay-Z, a potential partner with Bezos on offer; Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage who previously tried to buy the Denver Broncos; and media entrepreneur Byron Allen, another Broncos bidder. Actor Matthew McConaughey is exploring the possibility joining or forming an investment group bid, a person familiar with the situation said on Monday.
Michael Brice-Saddler and Liz Clarke contributed to this report.
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