WASHINGTON — D.C.’s Attorney General is going after the National Football League after he claimed it purposely misled locals. But some legal experts are curious if his tactic will work.
On Thursday, Attorney General Karl Racine announced his office was filing a civil lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, owner Dan Snyder, the National Football League, and Commissioner Roger Goodell for deceiving residents about the alleged toxic behavior in the Washington Commanders workplace.
Racine said that the four parties had colluded together in the process. He said he believes that act violated D.C.'s consumer protection law.
“All of that deception was done to protect their profits and their image,” he said. “With this lawsuit, we're standing up for D.C. residents who were repeatedly lied to and deceived. They have a right to know the truth about the companies they support with their hard-earned dollars.”
Racine also said he has faith in the strength of his lawsuit due to D.C. law.
“The Consumer Protection Act in the District of Columbia is the envy of many jurisdictions because it is broad,” he said. “And, what it covers is any material misstatement that a merchant or business makes that could impact consumers in the District of Columbia.”
The D.C. Attorney General’s Office has filed at least four consumer protection lawsuits over the last year. Some of them have named big companies like Facebook and Wawa as defendants.
But Racine’s confidence still has not swayed all legal experts, including some who used to work for the NFL.
Sports Law Professor Jodi Balsam, of the Brooklyn Law School, also used to serve as an in-house lawyer for the NFL.
She said she had never seen a lawsuit like the one brought forth by D.C.’s Attorney General.
“This is an unusual application of a fairly common type of consumer protection law,” Balsam said.
She added Racine’s office will have to prove that fans who bought tickets would have made different decisions if they had known certain facts that were alleged to be misrepresented.
“The complaint’s allegations seem to confirm that many fans had a pretty cleareyed understanding of the team’s misconduct and withdrew their support,” Balsam said. “At the time the misconduct was made public in those original Washington Post articles.”
However, she said if Racine’s office won the suit, it could benefit Commanders fans.
“On behalf of individuals, they could seek compensation for ticket purposes that were clearly influenced by the deception claimed by the AG,” Balsam said. “There might have to be refunds to fans for purchases for jerseys, along with penalties. This all could add up to millions of dollars.”