WASHINGTON — "No one is above the law," DC Attorney General Karl Racine announced at a podium Thursday, after sharing with the public that his office is suing Washington Commanders' owner Dan Snyder, the National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Attorney General said his office is suing the trio because of how little the public actually knew about the corruption that saturated the NFL investigation into the Commanders, hiding details that influenced fans' purchasing power -- a violation of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).
The Attorney General's Office launched its own investigation in the fall of 2021 into the matter.
Racine went over the long-standing sexual harassment allegations levied against Snyder and several of his top employees.
"Mr. Snyder dictated everything, from which photos of cheerleaders would be used in the annual swimsuit calendar, to how revealing the uniforms would be," Racine said. "He directed his employees to create voyeuristic videos of partially-clad cheerleaders from calendar shoots, from footage that the cheerleaders had no idea even existed."
He also alleged that Snyder's misconduct gave others permission to treat women in the same demeaning manner, despite Snyder's own claims that he was too hands-off as an owner and should have been more plugged into the day-to-day operations. Racine called it a false statement designed to mislead fans and create a fake image to continue making profits.
"The evidence shows Mr. Snyder was not only aware of the toxic culture within his organization; he encouraged it, and he participated in it," Racine said.
Snyder was also allegedly dismissive of allegations about high-level, male executives and employees making unwanted sexual comments about women in the organization, including an intern, Racine said.
Even after the NFL took over the investigation from the Commanders to publicly help ensure it was independent, the attorney general alleges that the Commanders and National Football League secretly entered into an agreement about the investigation that the public didn't know 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. Racine alleged the NFL went to Snyder and told him what was in the final report -- known as the Beth Wilkinson report -- and let Snyder dictate terms of his yearlong suspension and $10 million fine; Snyder chose which charities the money went to and approved the seven-line statement released by the NFL, according to Racine.
Racine believes the agreement ultimately gave Snyder the keys to dictate what could be shared, and the NFL then proceeded to turn a blind eye to Snyder's attempts to buy the silence of victims and witnesses through methods like non-disclosure agreements.
The attorney general said his lawsuit is civil, not criminal, seeking potential fines and a more detailed report on what Beth Wilkson found in her investigation. Racine said his office is limited to a consumer protection lawsuit on behalf of D.C. residents, because the Commanders facilities are in Maryland and Virginia.
DC Attorney General Racine announces Commanders lawsuit
"You can't lie to D.C. residents in order to protect your image, your profits and get away with it, no matter who you are," Racine said, before detailing the next steps in the investigation, which he added will be done before the public and involve subpoenas and testimony under oath. "Let me just give you a hunch; the depositions? Not likely to occur on a yacht, but in a conference room in the District of Columbia," he said.
Watch the Attorney General's comments in full below.
Read the full civil lawsuit below:
After Racine's announcement Thursday, the Counsel for the Washington Commanders released the following statement:
"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."
The NFL also responded to the lawsuit, calling Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into the Commanders thorough and comprehensive and said it imposed a record-setting fine against Snyder and the team.
“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 league statement said.
A day before the lawsuit was officially announced, the Commanders released a statement about the scheduled news conference.
"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.
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.
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