NFL & Dan Snyder Tackled With Deception Suit Over Washington Commanders’ Sexual Harassment Probe; League Rejects “Factually Baseless Allegations”

The NFL, its commissioner Roger Goodell, the Washington Commanders and their controversial owner Dan Snyder just got slammed by a scathing lawsuit from DC Attorney General Karl Racine.

Launched off the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, Racine is going after the league, team and officials for intentionally deceiving locals over the results and integrity of an investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace, sexual harassment and sexual assault at the newishly minted Commanders.

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“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 Thursday in a press conference unveiling the suit. “So far they seem to have gotten away with it, but that stops today.”

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“In order to sell expensive tickets and merchandise and maintain the Team as a profitable part of the League, Defendants need the Team to inspire public confidence and fan loyalty,” said the filing (read it here) made today in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. “But Defendants repeatedly attempted to bolster such confidence and loyalty through artful deception to the detriment of District consumers.”

“In fact, the evidence shows Snyder was not only aware of the toxic culture within his organization, he encouraged it and he participated in it,” Racine told reporters. “Mr. Snyder exerted a high level of personal control over everything the Commanders did and his misconduct gave others permission to treat women in the same demeaning manner.”

The misconduct claims are not a part of the jury-seeking complaint due to jurisdictional issues, but the DC Attorney General is seeking what could be tens of millions in penalties out of the alleged sleight of hand.

“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 suit continues. “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.”

Also being investigated by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Virginia’s attorney general and, ironically, the NFL, Snyder and the then-Washington Redskins were accused by 15 female former Redskins employees in July 2020 of coddling an organization taking part in sexual harassment, fostering a culture of abuse and more.

Denying most of the allegations as part of a deeply sourced Washington Post article on the situation, and denying any direct knowledge, the much-vilified Snyder brought D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson on board to investigate matters. As the backlash grew against the micro-managing Snyder and the team, the league became more involved in the investigation. Yet, as of today, Wilkinson’s final report has never been made public, despite the team being fine $10 million last year based on the findings in said report.

‘Snyder and the Team launched a campaign to interfere with and obstruct the investigation. Snyder and the Team attempted to prevent witnesses from talking to Wilkinson through payoffs and intimidation and engaged in aggressive, abusive litigation to dig up information on victims and the journalists who reported on Defendants’ misconduct,” today’s suit says. “The NFL was fully aware of this intimidation campaign. The course of Defendants’ conduct suggests the NFL was never serious about overseeing a thorough and complete investigation into Snyder and the Team’s misconduct.”

In fact, as all this was going on — it was bluntly called a “cover-up” in today’s complaint — the NFL allowed Snyder to buy out other stakeholders in the team and gain full ownership of the now-Commanders.

(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Commanders were playing both defense and offense today in response to the new suit.

“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,” said the team’s counsel John Brownlee and Stuart Nash in a statement Thursday. “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 NFL took a more measured but no less defiant tack.

“The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm,” NFL VP Communications Brian McCarthy told Deadline. “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.”

Having decided not to run for reelection this year, DC AG Racine will soon be exiting his office after two terms. Endorsed by the incumbent, local lawyer Brian Schwalb won the job in November 8’s midterm elections — meaning this football lands on his desk on Day One.

In the meantime, Snyder has reportedly begun exploring a possible sale of the Commanders by bringing Bank of America Securities on board. If a sale was in the offering for team, valued at $5.5 billion, there would be no shortage of suitors. Jeff Bezos and Jay-Z already have expressed interest, sports insiders say.

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