The District of Columbia is bringing a lawsuit against Dan Snyder, the Washington Commanders, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced at a press conference on Thursday.
"We're here today to talk about the Washington Commanders," Racine said in his opening remarks. "For years, the team and its owner have caused very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to dodge accountability and to continue to rake in profits."
"So far, they seem to have gotten away with it, but that stops today," Racine said. "Today, we're filing a consumer protection lawsuit, a civil lawsuit, against Dan Snyder, the Washington Commanders, the National Football League, and the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for colluding to deceive residents of the District of Columbia about their investigation into a toxic workplace culture that impacted employees, especially women.
"All of that deception was done to protect their profits and their image. 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. The Commanders, Mr. Snyder, the National Football League, and Roger Goodell deprived them of this right."
Racine said that his office has been "carefully and thoroughly" investigating the Washington Commanders and Snyder since the fall of 2021 over allegations of "sexual harassment and workplace misconduct, and the circumstances around the NFL's so-called 'independent investigation' into these allegations."
"We've interviewed numerous witnesses, including former team employees who witnessed and experienced the conduct at issue," Racine said. "We reviewed thousands of internal documents produced by the Commanders and the National Football League, including emails. What we found, what the evidence overwhelmingly established, what we will prove in court, is clear wrongdoing and violations of D.C. residents' consumer rights. They defendants lied about what they knew and then they lied about what they were going to do about it, all in the service of protecting image and profit."
"First, we allege that Mr. Snyder lied to D.C. consumers when he denied knowing anything, anything about the allegations of a hostile work environment and culture of sexual harassment," Racine said. "In fact, the evidence shows Mr. Snyder was not only aware of the toxic culture within his organization, he encouraged it and he participated in it. Mr. Snyder exerted a high level of personal control over everything the Commanders did, and his misconduct gave others permission to treat women in the same demeaning manner."
Racine repeatedly accused Snyder of misleading the public about Beth Wilkinson's investigation into the Commanders' workplace culture, which resulted in the NFL issuing an oral report of Wilkinson's findings. Racine also accused the league of colluding with Snyder to keep those findings under wraps.
"Mr. Snyder dictated everything, from which photos of cheerleaders were used in an 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. When Mr. Snyder was told about allegations of male executives and employees making unwanted sexual comments and propositions toward other employees, he was often dismissive. And you know the trick: he blamed repeatedly the victims."
"For example," Racine continued, "when a longtime Commanders broadcaster was caught making inappropriate sexual comments, that's Mr. [Larry] Michael, about a Commanders intern, Mr. Snyder shrugged it off, calling the man a 'sweetheart who wouldn't hurt anyone.'
"In another incident, Mr. Snyder directed the firing of a cheerleader who had reported sexual misconduct by a player in order to minimize distractions from the players. There were no consequences whatsoever for the player who allegedly acted inappropriately. Despite all of the evidence of Mr. Snyder's knowledge of and participation in the hostile workplace culture, when news stories broke, Mr. Snyder falsely claimed he knew nothing about it. He did this in order to insulate himself from consequences, protect his image and protect his profit."
"Mr. Snyder made public statements claiming he was 'unaware' of these allegations until they surfaced in the media," Racine said. "He also claimed he had been 'too hands off' as an owner and allowed others to have day-to-day control of the team.
"These attempts to deflect attention away from himself and blame others do not stand the test of scrutiny. They're false statements designed to mislead the fans that Mr. Snyder need to continue to make profits and to continue to burnish and image that was not squared off by the facts."
"Second, we allege that the National Football League and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, Mr. Snyder, and the Commanders misled the public about what was being done to address the allegations of harassment and the toxic culture that the Commanders maintained," he said. "They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their images, and let the profits continue to roll."
Racine said that while Snyder and the Commanders were publicly denying their involvement, Goodell and the league were working to sweep the allegations under the rug in the interest of maintaining profits.
"In reality, the Commanders and the National Football League secretly entered into an agreement about the investigation that the public didn't know about," Racine said. "The public didn't know about the agreement that the National Football League and Dan Snyder entered into about the so-called 'independent investigation.' This agreement enabled information about the investigation to be shared with Mr. Snyder and gave him the keys to determine what could and what could not be shared with the public."
"Furthermore," he added, "the National Football League turned a blind eye about the investigation to Mr. Snyder's attempts at preventing victims and witnesses from talking to investigators. The NFL even ignored Mr. Snyder's attempts to buy the silence of victims and witnesses through additional settlements and of course Non-Disclosure Agreements. When the 10-month investigation was complete, the National Football League effectively buried findings. The fans received a whopping seven sentences, mostly reiterating what they already knew."
Racine said that the public was led to believe that Snyder would not interfere with the investigation. "He did," Racine said.