Commanders owner Snyder and NFL's Goodell face consumer protection lawsuit

The attorney general for the District of Columbia says he is filing a civil consumer protection lawsuit against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, the National Football League and its commissioner Roger Goodell.

Attorney General Karl A. Racine accused the Commanders and the league of "colluding to deceive residents of DC about their investigation of a toxic workplace culture."

The Washington Post reported in July 2020 that 40 women who were former employees of the club had been sexually harassed by Snyder and others within the organization.

Racine said Snyder and Goodell and their organizations "deceived the public" about the nature of the investigations and argued the NFL and the Commanders had reached a "secret agreement" about the investigation.

"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 states.

"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."

Brian McCarthy, spokesperson for the NFL, rejected Racine's argument and said their investigation, which led to a $10 million fine against the Commanders, had been properly conducted.

"The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively 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," he said.

"We reject the legally unsound and factually baseless allegations made today by the DC attorney general against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell and will vigorously defend against those claims," McCarthy added.

Commanders counsel John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said the case was a chance to present a defense of the organisation.

"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," they said in a statement.

Racine said defendants could face fines of $5,000 for each "mis-statement" and that the amount could add up to a significant fine.

"I think it's going to be a lot of zeros...I am not going to value this case right now," Racine told a news conference.

The attorney general stressed that the case would force the defendants to make sworn testimony and would bring "accountability from some of the most powerful men and organizations in the United States and that is an important thing."

- 'Splashy headlines' -

A spokesperson for the Commanders had criticized Racine, who did not seek re-election and is leaving office at the end of the year, after he announced he was calling Thursday's news conference.

The spokesperson said the team had fully cooperated with Racine's investigation for nearly a year.

"It is unfortunate that in his final days in office, Mr. Racine appears more interested in making splashy headlines, based on offbeat legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players," the spokesperson said.

Commanders running-back Brian Robinson was shot in August in an apparent attempted car-jacking.

Earlier this month, Snyder and his wife Tanya said they were exploring selling the club, which was previously known as the Washington Redskins.

Snyder and the franchise are also the subject of separate investigations by the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform and former US Attorney Mary Jo White, who is conducting a new review on behalf of the NFL.