The Washington attorney general is sniffing around the Washington Commanders and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. This could get interesting.
Keep in mind, the NFL is no stranger to lawsuits. And most of them come with the implicit threat that whatever business the league does behind close doors, as is its right as a private entity, will be exposed publicly and that will cause enormous fallout.
That threat is meant to make the NFL jump through whatever legal hoops litigants typically want to see the league jump through. They’re meant to make the NFL heel.
That threat was not even close to implicit Thursday afternoon when Washington D.C. attorney general Karl Racine announced the filing of a consumer protection lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, owner Dan Snyder, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.
His threat was quite explicit.
“It’s going to be public. The complaint is public,” Racine said. “We will issue subpoenas. We will seek testimony under oath, depositions, I promise you.”
Uncomfortable Time Coming For Dan Snyder
So Racine and the OAG he leads fired its first shot across the bow of the plaintiffs and it is meant to force cooperation or be embarrassed publicly.
And this process promises to be quite uncomfortable for Snyder. Why?
Because even some people who are mostly innocent in civil matters do not hold up perfectly under questioning from lawyers. Because even if Snyder sells the team before the suit proceeds, he is being named as an individual so he must still answer.
And because his use of his yacht, which he boarded and took to the other side of the Earth to escape scrutiny from Congress may not not help.
“Let me just give you a hunch,” Racine said. “The depositions are not likely to occur on a yacht but in a conference room in the District of Columbia.”
And what about the NFL and Goodell?
Look, the league eats lawsuits for breakfast. In 2021 the league’s 32 teams generated an estimated 17.9 billion in revenue. So these guys are both experienced in and capable of hiring the country’s best lawyers.
Racine seemed to note that when he said that pursuant to the laws of civil procedure, Snyder, Goodell, the Washington Commanders, and the NFL have every right to answer the complaint and also seek to have the case dismissed.
NFL Responds To D.C. Attorney General
And, yes, they will. There will be a strong defense.
“The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a email to OutKick. “Following the completion of the investigation, the NFL made public a summary of Ms. Wilkinson’s findings and imposed a record-setting fine against the club and its ownership.
“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.”
It’s interesting that what Racine said his office’s extensive investigation uncovered is a “violation of D.C. residents consumer rights.”
He did not find enough evidence, it should be said, to bring criminal charges.
The primary charge of the suit is that the named parties colluded to deceive residents of the District of Columbia about their investigation into a toxic workplace culture with the organization that impacted employees — particularly women.
Racine made the point D.C. residents have a right to know about the companies they support, Racine said. And he alleges the NFL, Snyder, the Commanders and Goodell “deprived them of this right.”
“We were led to believe Mr. Snyder would not interfere with the independent investigation. He did,” Racine said. “We were led to believe the public would not be left out of the process,” he continued. “We were. We were led to believe real change would happen. We’re still waiting.”
The biggest lie, Racine alleges, is that Snyder said he knew nothing of the Commanders hostile workplace allegations. “In fact, the evidence shows Mr. Snyder was not only away of the toxic culture within his organization he encouraged it and he participated in it,” Racine said.
Racine said Snyder was “often dismissive” when he was told about male executives and employees making unwanted sexual comments and propositions to other employees.
Racine said Snyder ordered the firing of a cheerleader who “reported sexual misconduct by a player in order to minimize distractions from the players.”
“All of that deception was done to protect their profits and their image,” Racine said.
“For years the team has caused some very real harm and then lied about it to dodge accountability and continue to rake in profits. So far they seem to have gotten away with it, but that stops today.”