WASHINGTON — The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine is expected to make a "major announcement" regarding the Washington Commanders during a news conference Thursday.
Very little details were provided about the subject of the news conference, set for Thursday at 1 p.m., which led to much speculation on social media, including a statement from the Commanders to WUSA9 that insinuated they were surprised by the attorney general's announcement.
"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," the team statement said.
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The Commanders' statement goes on to say that the team has "fully cooperated" with Racine's office for nearly a year while the team's front office has been the subject of numerous investigations, including one from Racine. The attorney general launched an investigation into the Commanders back in April, around the time the U.S. House Committee of Oversight and Reform referred its case, which began with workplace issues, to the Federal Trade Commission over potential fiduciary violations.
A 20-page letter sent to the FTC by the leaders of the Committee on Oversight and Reform claims that the Commanders withheld up to $5 million in refundable deposits from more than 2,000 season ticket holders and hid money that should've been shared with the league.
"Evidence obtained by the Committee, including emails, documents, and statements from former employees, indicate senior executives and the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct that victimized thousands of team fans and the National Football League," the letter says.
The letter alleged that the Commanders underreported ticket revenue and kept two sets of financial books in order to hide funds owed to the NFL. The allegations are largely based on information coming from former Commanders sales executive Jason Friedman, who worked with the team for 24 years.
At the time, Racine's office spoke with WUSA9 to say:
“We take these allegations against the Washington Commanders very seriously, and if we find evidence that they have violated District law, we won’t hesitate to take action. During AG Racine’s time in office, our consumer protection team has filed dozens of lawsuits against companies that harmed District residents—including some of the largest companies in the world—and we’ve secured more than $12 million in relief."
The Attorney General's office has a long history of filing lawsuits to get money back for D.C. residents, often teaming with other states. Meaning Maryland and Virginia's potential involvement is also something to keep an eye on.
"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 Commanders statement said, referencing the August shooting of rookie running back Brian Robinson.
Two teenagers have been arrested and charged by DC Police in connection to Robinson's shooting.
Late Wednesday night, Commanders Team President Jason Wright put out an additional statement, noting that he had spoken to DC Police Chief Robert Contee to express his support for the department, and acknowledging the team's overall frustration with Racine's office should not have dragged Robinson into the mix.
"The lawyers' legitimate frustrations with the AG should have been separate and apart from referencing the terrible crime that affected our player," Wright said.
Robinson's agent also weighed in on the team's response online.
"Up until an hour ago, the Commanders handled the Brian Robinson situation with so much care, sincerity and class, Ryan Williams, a partner at Athletes First agency, wrote. "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."