The District of Columbia Attorney General announced a lawsuit filed against the Washington Commanders, team owner Dan Snyder, the National Football League, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for colluding to deceive District residents “Commanders’ core fans” about an investigation into toxic workplace culture and allegations of sexual assault to maintain a strong fanbase and increase profits.
After years of public reporting and outcry in response to sexual assault and workplace abuse allegations against Washington Commanders executives, including team owner Dan Snyder, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) took action and launched its own investigation in the fall of 2021 into the Commanders’ and the NFL’s response to allegations of sexual harassment. During the investigation, OAG interviewed numerous witnesses, including former Commanders employees who experienced and witnessed harassment. OAG also reviewed thousands of internal documents produced by the Commanders and the NFL, including emails.
OAG’s investigation revealed that the Commanders, the NFL, and their executives, Snyder and Goodell, worked to prevent District residents from learning the truth and keep profiting. They publicly promised to fully cooperate with an independent investigation into the toxic work environment and sexual harassment within the Commanders organization and promised results the fans could trust.
According to the announcement “behind the scenes, Snyder waged an interference campaign to cover up years of harassment. And the NFL let him do it, betraying fans’ trust by enabling Snyder to have a say at the end of the investigation into him and the Commanders.”
Specifically, the Attorney General alleges that after the NFL took over the investigation from the Commanders to publicly help ensure it was independent, the Commanders and the NFL entered into an agreement that the public knew nothing about.
The agreement declared they had a joint interest in the investigation and gave Snyder and the Commanders the ability to block the public release of any information he chose, including the investigation’s ultimate findings. Throughout the investigation, Snyder actively sought to interfere with it, including intimidating and suppressing witnesses. Then, the NFL chose to shield the results of the investigation from the public.
The Commanders are valued at $5.6 billion and the NFL is a roughly $18 billion industry. The Commanders and the NFL make money off of fans’ ticket sales, and purchases of merchandise and entertainment that is targeted to DC residents.
The District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices. OAG has broad authority under the CPPA to hold accountable any company or any head of a company if they mislead or lie to District consumers, regardless of where they are located. The Washington Commanders actively view District consumers as their fanbase, as evidenced by marketing campaigns to align the team with the city, including selling jerseys with the District of Columbia flag on it and other merchandise with “D.C.” clearly visible.
OAG’s lawsuit seeks to hold accountable the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL, and Goodell for violating the CPPA by lying to the public and District fans and withholding critical information.
With this lawsuit, OAG is seeking financial penalties under the CPPA for every incident in which the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL, and Goodell lied to District residents dating back to July 2020. And a Court order forcing the NFL to release the findings from attorney Beth Wilkinson’s 10-month independent investigation into the Commanders’ workplace culture, to give the fans and the public the truth and information they expected.