WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Attorney General Karl Racine said he was filing a consumer protection civil lawsuit against the owner of the Washington Commanders, the team, the National Football League, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying that all of them colluded to “deceive residents of the District of Columbia about the investigation into toxic workplace culture” within the franchise.
Racine made the announcement at a news conference Thursday afternoon where he discussed, in part, the investigation that was to have taken place into allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct involving the Commanders.
Racine said his office would prove in court that those named in the suit lied about what they knew and what they were going to do in response to the allegations, accusing Snyder and others of putting image and profit above everything else.
“The evidence shows Mr. Snyder was not only aware of the toxic culture within his organization. He encouraged, and he participated in it,” Racine stated.
To illustrate that point, Racine said, among other things, Snyder dictated which photos of cheerleaders were used, determined how revealing cheerleaders uniforms were, and directed employees to create “voyeuristic videos with partially-clad cheerleaders from calendar footage that the cheerleaders had no idea existed.”
“I did not go on record at first. I was terrified to go against Dan Snyder and to fight a billionaire,” said former cheerleader Melanie Coburn, who was among the team’s former employees to attend the news conference. “But when I learned about the videos that came out that were created at his request with footage taken that we did not know about, of the cheerleaders that I managed, I had to step forward.”
“Frankly, the past two and a half years, this is kind of the moment we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been seeking transparency, accountability, and I think we’re finally at that point where D.C. is leading the charge there to ensure that there is transparency,” shared Megan Imbert, who used to work for the team as a television producer.
“I really want to see Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell accountable for what I believe was a coverup,” Imbert said. “We risked our lives, our reputations, to be a part of this and bring truth to light so that workplaces everywhere, that people don’t have to go through what we went through.”
The attorney general’s office began investigating the team around the same time that the U.S. Committee for Oversight and Reform referred its case, which stemmed from claims of sexual harassment within the Commanders organization, to the Federal Trade Commission for potential financial improprieties.
“You can’t lie to D.C residents in order to protect your image, your profits, and get away with no matter what,” Racine said, adding that Goodell was “intimately involved in the decision-making.”
Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Communications of the National Football League, provided DC News Now with this statement:
The independent investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her law firm. 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.
John Brownlee and Stuart Nash, lawyers for the Washington Commanders, issued this 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.
Forbes recently reported that team owners Dan Snyder and Tanya Snyder planned to sell the Commanders. The team said simply that the Snyders hired Bank of America Securities “to consider potential transactions” involving it.