Washington Commanders

DC Attorney General: Dan Snyder, Commanders, NFL, Roger Goodell Colluded to Lie About Misconduct

The Commanders and its owners Dan and Tanya Snyder have been the subject of multiple investigations into workplace culture and sexual misconduct

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Washington, D.C.'s attorney general announced Thursday he's filing a civil lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, owner Dan Snyder, the National Football League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming they colluded to deceive D.C. residents about allegations of a hostile work environment and workplace harassment, and that Snyder was not only aware of those issues, but "encouraged and participated" in such misconduct.

"We hold bad actors accountable when they cause harm," D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. "No one, no matter how powerful they are, is above the law."

Racine said that, for years, the team and Snyder caused real and serious harm and lied about it to dodge accountability while raking in profits. The Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and Goodell colluded to deceive D.C. residents about their investigation into a toxic workplace culture impacting employees, especially women, according to the lawsuit.

"We're standing up for D.C. residents who were repeatedly lied to and deceived," Racine said.

Multiple former employees said in summer 2020 they were sexually harassed while working for the team.

According to Racine, Snyder not only lied to Commanders fans when he denied knowing anything about a hostile work environment and workplace harassment, but he also participated in such misconduct and encouraged it.

The lawsuit claims Snyder directed his employees to create voyeuristic videos of cheerleaders that the cheerleaders had no idea existed. When Snyder was told about allegations of unwanted sexual comments, he was dismissive and repeatedly blamed the victims, the attorney general said.

The D.C. attorney general is filing a civil lawsuit against the Commanders, Dan Snyder, the NFL and Roger Goodell, saying they colluded to lie about misconduct.

Racine said Snyder also directed the firing of a cheerleader who reported a player for sexual misconduct, and there were no consequences for the player.

"Despite all the evidence, when news stories broke, Snyder falsely claimed he knew nothing to protect his image and his profit," Racine said.

The attorney general's office reviewed thousands of internal documents and emails in its investigation, Racine said.

Women who used to work for the football team said after Racine's news conference it was the moment for which they'd been waiting.

"I really want to see Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell accountable for what I believe was a cover-up," former employee Megan Imbert said. "We risked our lives, our reputations to be apart of this and bring truth to light so that workplaces everywhere - so people won’t have to go through what we went through, and we've been through a lot in the past two-and-a-half years, and it's been scary."

"I was terrified to go against Dan Snyder and to fight a billionaire," another former employee, Melanie Coburn, said.

Spokespeople for the Commanders released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"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."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy called Racine's allegations "legally unsound" in a statment.

"The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm," McCarthy said. "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 team retained D.C. lawyer Beth Wilkinson's firm to launch an independent investigation into the allegations of misconduct, which the league then took oversight of.

The NFL in July 2021 fined the team $10 million and Dan Snyder ceded daily operations to Tanya after Wilkinson's investigation unearthed a “toxic” workplace culture.

Racine said the NFL enabled information about the investigation to be shared with Snyder and allowed him to determine what could or couldn't be shared.

No written report was issued, leading the U.S. House Oversight Committee to investigate.

Commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the committee at a public hearing in June, and Snyder gave a deposition for more than 10 hours in July. Information about Snyder's testimony has yet to be released.

Racine's office launched his investigation into the team around the time the committee referred its case, which initially centered on workplace culture issues, to the Federal Trade Commission for potential financial improprieties.

The Commanders said in a statement issued by a team spokesperson on Wednesday that it learned about the scheduled news conference on social media.

“The Commanders have fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation for nearly a year,” the spokesperson said. “As recently as Monday, a lawyer for the team met with the AG who did not suggest at that time that he intended to take any action and, in fact, revealed fundamental misunderstandings of the underlying facts.”

Also in the statement, the team attempted to pivot the issue to violent crime in Washington, citing the August shooting that injured rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr.

Robinson's agent, Ryan Williams, criticized the team on Twitter, posting: “Up until an hour ago, the Commanders handled the Brian Robinson situation with so much care, sincerity and class. And I was so grateful for all of it. Although I know that there are some great humans in that building, whoever is hiding behind this statement is not one of them.”

Dan and Tanya Snyder announced last week they hired Bank of America Securities to look into selling part or all of the team. A team spokesperson said the Snyders were “exploring all options” in regard to the organization that Forbes values at $5.6 billion.

The U.S. House Oversight Committee in April sent a letter to the FTC saying the team engaged in potentially unlawful financial conduct and that there was evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.

The Commanders denied withholding ticket revenue from other teams, and a law firm representing them sent a letter to the FTC with testimony, emails and other documents laying out evidence to dispute the accusations.

A week later, the Virginia attorney general’s office told the team it was opening an investigation into potential financial improprieties. Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares said it was his responsibility to look into the matter, adding he had not “prejudged” the team's conduct.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy last week said former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White's review on behalf of the league is ongoing and there is no timetable for when it will be completed.

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