DC Attorney General Sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders, NFL


DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine’s (D) office said Thursday it filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Washington commanders Daniel Snyder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, accusing them of colluding to deceive and mislead customers about a team workplace investigation to maintain the franchise’s revenue-seeking fan base.

“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.”

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 the District of Columbia’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.

“The OAG’s thorough investigation revealed that the Commanders, the NFL and their leaders, Mr. Snyder and Commissioner Goodell, worked to prevent residents of the District from learning the truth and continuing to enjoy it,” Racine said in a statement. “They have publicly pledged to cooperate fully with an independent investigation into the toxic work environment and sexual harassment within the Commanders organization and promised results that fans could trust. But behind the scenes Mr Snyder has waged a campaign of interference to cover up years of harassment. And the NFL let him, betraying the trust of fans by allowing Mr. Snyder a say in the end of the investigation into him and the commanders.

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 of making the streets safe” and quoted the August shoot in Washington of Brian Robinson Jr., a rookie running back for the team. Later that evening, Commanders Chairman Jason Wright said in a statement that the team should have separated the two issues.

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The action comes as Racine prepares to leave office, and it results of an investigation began in the fall of 2021. Snyder and the commanders are also under investigation by the NFL, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the office of Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares (R).

Additionally, investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia questioned witnesses about alleged financial improprieties 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.

Racine said his office “interviewed numerous witnesses, including former employees of commanders who experienced and witnessed harassment” and “reviewed thousands of internal documents produced by commanders and the NFL, including emails”.

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”.

Goodell and the league said they 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 Snyder, the franchise’s co-CEO, would oversee operations. of commanders for an indefinite period.

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

The statement on Wednesday from the commanders spokesman said: “Less than three months ago, a 23-year-old player from our team was shot multiple times, in broad daylight. Despite the out-of-control violent crime in DC, Washington commanders learned today for the first time on Twitter that the DC Attorney General will be holding a press conference to “make a major announcement” regarding the organization tomorrow.

The statement caught the attention of Robinson’s agent, Ryan Williams of Athletes First, who wrote on Twitter Wednesday night: “Until an hour ago COs handled Brian Robinson’s situation with so much of care, sincerity and class. And I was so thankful for it all. Although I know there are great humans in this building, the one behind this statement is not one of them.

The commanders responded with a statement from Wright in which he said team attorneys had “legitimate frustrations” with Racine that “should have been separate from the reference” to the shooting.

DC police have arrested two teenage suspects – one 17 years and later a 15 years old — in connection with the Aug. 28 shooting during an attempted robbery along commercial H Street in northeastern Washington. The 17 years was charged as a minor with assault with intent to steal while armed. The 15 years old, who was 14 at the time, faces charges of armed robbery. Police said Friday they were still looking for a third suspect who chased the two teenagers from the attack.

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“Commanders have cooperated fully with the AG’s investigation for nearly a year,” the team’s spokesperson said in an earlier statement Wednesday. “As late as Monday, a team lawyer met with the Attorney General who did not suggest at the time that he intended to take action and, in fact, revealed fundamental misunderstandings on the underlying facts. It is unfortunate that, in his final days in office, Mr. Racine seems more interested in making splashy headlines, based on off-the-wall legal theories, than doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bring to justice the people who shot one of our players.

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 faced no opposition 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.

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

But he also took bigger swings. In recent years, he has continued cases against facebook, Amazonthe Roman Catholic clergy in DC and President Donald Trump. He filed a federal lawsuit against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers after the Jan. 6 insurrection and recently teamed up with California and Illinois attorneys general to stop grocery chain Albertsons, owner of Safeway, from paying out $4 billion to shareholders ahead of a proposed merger with the Kroger grocer.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said in a statement Wednesday: “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.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Commanders announced last week that Daniel and Tanya Snyder had hired an investment bank to ‘review potential transactions’ linked 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.”

Jeff Miller, executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy for the NFL, said Wednesday that the league was not involved in the commanders sale process at this point and did not expect it to happen. that Snyder sell all or part of the franchise.

“I would refer you to the club for information regarding any potential transactions,” Miller said in a conference call with reporters. “It is, of course, their decision.”

Among those mentioned as potential buyers for the team are Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post; music mogul Jay-Z, a potential partner for Bezos in a bid; Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which previously tried to buy the Denver Broncos; and media entrepreneur Byron Allen, another Broncos bidder. Actor Matthew McConaughey explores the possibility of join or form an investment group bid, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

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

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