DC AG Files Civil Lawsuit Against Commanders, Snyder, NFL, Goodell | TSN

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were sued Thursday by the District of Columbia, charged with collusion to mislead fans by lying about an investigation into “sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment” within the team. .

The individual club and the league as a whole were also named in the civil consumer protection lawsuit, which DC Attorney General Karl Racine said was based on his office’s investigation that began in the fall of 2021.

Racine said the defendants together “misled the public” about the content and procedure surrounding attorney Beth Wilkinson’s examination of the team’s work culture that began in 2020. Her office is seeking an injunction compelling the league to publish Wilkinson’s findings.

“For years, the team and its owner have caused very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to evade responsibility,” Racine said, also pointing the finger at Goodell and the NFL. “They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their image, and let the profits continue to rise.”

Racine said that while the team practices in Virginia and plays its games in Maryland, it is heavily connected to Washington and violates the rights of DC consumers. Racine said the capital city’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act provides for fines of up to $5,000 per lie, which his office estimated could result in fines of millions of dollars.

Asked about a parallel review of commanders’ finances and the withholding of money from season ticket holders, Racine said, “There will be more news on that next week.” The US House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has one of the other investigations into Snyder, referred a case about the club’s possible financial improprieties to the Federal Trade Commission in April, citing questionable business practices. related to ticket revenue.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wilkinson’s investigation was conducted thoroughly and thoroughly, with the league releasing a summary and imposing a record $10 million fine on the team and its owners.

“We reject the legally unfounded and factually unfounded allegations made today by the DC Attorney General against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell and will vigorously defend against those claims,” McCarthy wrote in an email.

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

“We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth,” attorneys for commanders John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement sent through a team spokesman. “Although the lawsuit repeats many innuendos, half-truths and lies, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organization, for the first time, in a court of law and establish, once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction.”

Thursday’s filing in DC Superior Court says Snyder “cultivated an environment … that glorifies sexual harassment and punishes victims for speaking out.” According to the complaint, “team employees say the workplace was ‘like the mob’…creating a culture of fear and paranoia.”

“The misconduct didn’t just go to the top; originated there,” the court filing says, noting that a longtime former team executive said employees referred to Snyder as the “Harassing Director.”

The complaint outlines ways the attorney general’s office says Snyder has been accused of “further cultivating the team’s culture of sexual harassment,” such as bringing “women believed to be sex workers to work-related events.” “, overseeing the team’s cheerleading program and exerting “control over everything from which cheerleader candidates made the cut, to what photos were used on the cheerleading calendar, to how revealing cheerleading uniforms would be.”

The team remains the subject of many other ongoing investigations, including by the Virginia attorney general, Congress and the NFL. Goodell has said there is no timeline for when the review of former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White on behalf of the league will be completed.

Racine said the DC attorney general’s office will issue subpoenas and seek sworn testimony. He gave Snyder’s virtual testimony with the House Oversight Committee a go by saying that “statements are not likely to occur on a yacht but in a conference room in the District of Columbia.”

The Snyders announced last week that they had hired Bank of America Securities to investigate the sale of part or all of the team. A team spokesman said they were “exploring all options” regarding the organization that Forbes values ​​at $5.6 billion.

“If you sell the equipment,” Racine said, “you’re still a defendant.”

Racine said the lawsuit is taking place in civil court because his office does not have criminal jurisdiction over the matter. He will step down on Jan. 2 and hopes successor Brian Schwalb will continue the case.

Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said the civil lawsuit “is further evidence of what we’ve known for a long time: that both the commanders and the NFL have engaged in deception.” and lies designed to hide the team’s identity. decades of sexual harassment and abuse, which has impacted not only the victims of that abuse, but consumers as well.”

Former club employees Megan Imbert and Melanie Coburn attended the news conference, and Imbert said she and others who worked for the team have been seeking accountability and transparency. She believes this is a significant step.

“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for,” Imbert said. “We’ve been through a lot, including the last two and a half years, and it’s been scary, but I think the law is on our side and I just look forward to what the future holds. This is the most significant day.” of the last 2 1/2 years for me.”


AP national writer Howard Fendrich contributed.


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