D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday that his office is filing a consumer protection lawsuit against the Commanders, team owner Daniel Snyder, the NFL and league commissioner Roger Goodell. The lawsuit accuses them of colluding to deceive and mislead customers about the investigation into the team's workplace misconduct in order to avoid losing revenue from the fan base.
"Faced with public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment at the Team, Defendants made a series of public statements to convince District consumers that this dysfunctional and misogynistic conduct was limited and that they were fully cooperating with an independent investigation," the lawsuit says, via The Washington Post. "These statements were false and calculated to mislead consumers so they would continue to support the Team financially without thinking that they were supporting such misconduct."
Two attorneys for the Commanders, John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, issued this statement following the lawsuit announcement (via The Washington Post):
"Over two years ago, Dan and Tanya Snyder acknowledged that an unacceptable workplace culture had existed within their organization for several years and they have apologized many times for allowing that to happen. We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth.
"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 independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensibly conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm. Following the completion of the investigation, the NFL made public a summary of Ms. Wilkinson's findings and imposed a record-setting fine against the club and its ownership.
"We reject the legally unsound and factually baseless allegations made today by the D.C. Attorney General against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell and will vigorously defend against those claims."
The lawsuit, which is being filed in the civil division of the D.C. Superior Court, alleges that the Commanders and the NFL violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act with "public misrepresentations, omissions, and ambiguities of material fact." Racine's office is seeking "financial penalties under the CPPA for every incident in which the Commanders, Mr. Snyder, the NFL, and Commissioner Goodell lied to District residents dating back to July 2020," adding that the defendants "could face millions of dollars in penalties."
The NFL fined Snyder's franchise $10 million at the conclusion of their workplace misconduct investigation. The investigation was launched after The Washington Post report that included 15 former employees claiming that they were sexually harassed during their time with the franchise. A second report published in The Post cited interviews with over 100 employees who claimed Snyder "has presided over an organization in which women say they have been marginalized, discriminated against and exploited."
Snyder was also accused of attempting to use cheerleaders in inappropriate ways, including having inappropriate videos of cheerleader photoshoots created for him.
In February, six former employees of the franchise joined leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee for a roundtable discussion about workplace misconduct within the organization. The roundtable led to more accusations that included claims of inappropriate behavior by Snyder. The Oversight Committee's chairman and chairwoman believe the NFL "covered up" alleged misconducted from the six former employees prior to the league's investigation.
No matter what happens on the football field, the focus surrounding the Commanders is seemingly always on the turmoil surrounding Snyder and the overall running of the franchise. Along with the lawsuit, the Commanders were at the center of controversy this week after the team invoked running back Brian Robinson Jr.'s recent shooting in their response to the lawsuit announcement.
While the Commanders' players have largely avoided publicly discussing the state of the franchise, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste recently said that a change within the organization would be beneficial.
"Since I arrived here, it's been a dark cloud over our organization," St-Jusge told French-language paper Le Journal de Quebec last week (translation via 106.7 The Fan). "Every time there is something good happening on the pitch, something bad is happening off it. It would give us great energy to have a fresh start and regain the confidence of the fans."
Amid this controversy, St-Juste may get his wish, as Snyder has hired representation to Colts owner Jim Irsay recently said that there would "potentially" be enough votes from NFL ownership to remove Snyder as owner. Twenty-four votes would be needed in order to remove any owner.. This comes after
"Some of the things I've heard doesn't represent us at all,". "I want the American public to know what we're about as owners. ... You can't shy away from the fact that, I believe it's in the best interest of the National Football League that we look at this squarely in the eyes and deal with it."
Meanwhile, coach Ron Rivera and his team continue to try to keep the focus on the field. After a slow start, Rivera's team is 4-5 entering Monday night's road game against the undefeated Eagles.