The Commanders and owner Daniel Snyder once again find themselves in the spotlight of an investigation from the government.
On Thursday, Washington, D.C. attorney general Karl Racine announced his office would be filing a consumer protection lawsuit against the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of misleading the public regarding the investigation into workplace harassment within the Commanders’ organization.
Racine said the reason for the civil case is that the defendants — the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and Goodell — tried to deceive D.C. residents about the investigation into the Commanders’ workplace harassment allegations.
“The defendants lied about what they knew, and then the defendants lied about what they were going to do about it,” Racine said.
MORE: Commanders blasted for their response to news of D.C. AG announcement
Here’s what you need to know about the investigation:
D.C. attorney general’s Commanders civil lawsuit, explained
The Commanders faced a lengthy investigation into claims of workplace harassment, during which Snyder often claimed he had no knowledge of any sexual harassment or bullying. The findings of the official report were never publicized, though the NFL released a statement summarizing why it was fining the team $10 million.
Racine said the NFL hid the results of the investigation and that both the team and the league made statements that misconduct within the Washington organization was limited and that they had cooperated with the investigation. However, Racine said these were false statements designed to protect the Commanders brand to try and mislead consumers and maintain support for the team and the league. Racine said the NFL and Snyder entered into an agreement that allowed Snyder to veto the release of results of the investigation.
During his press conference, Racine detailed the franchise’s workplace culture and said that Snyder engaged in the activity himself, saying that he was not only aware of the misconduct that was going on, but he “encouraged it and participated in it.”
“Snyder exerted high level of personal control over everything Commanders did and his misconduct gave others permission to treat women in the same demeaning manor,” Racine said.
Racine said he wants a court order to force the findings of the 10-month investigation into the Commanders’ workplace culture to be released. In addition, there will be subpoenas and testimonies under oath.
Racine explained the consumer protection act is “broad” and said that it is “valid and lawful” and has been the result of restitution in several cases. He said the goal of the lawsuit is “accountability.” The office is seeking financial penalties for the times the Commanders, NFL, Goodell or Snyder misled D.C. residents, but he did not give a dollar estimate at the press conference.
Commanders workplace harassment allegations
The latest investigations opened into the Commanders and Snyder add to a mounting pile of allegations faced by Washington.
Back in 2018, The New York Times reported that five former Washington cheerleaders were sexually harassed and intimidated by the team during a swimsuit calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica. The cheerleaders told the Times they were required to be topless for photographs despite the calendar not displaying nudity. There were several sponsors and FedEx Field suit holders in attendance, and the cheerleaders were later assigned to go to a nightclub with several of the male sponsors, per the report.
Two years later, The Washington Post published a series of reports with allegations from more than 40 women, who had worked for the team, claiming that they experienced sexual harassment and verbal abuse while part of the organization between 2006 and 2019. The accusations ranged from unwanted advances and remarks to requests to wear revealing clothing and to flirt with clients. Snyder was accused in the Post’s second report of verbal abuse and sexual misconduct.
The reports from the Post prompted the team to hire attorney Beth Wilkinson to conduct a review into the allegations and “help the team set new employee standards for the future.” The NFL would later take over the handling of Wilkinson’s investigation.
Following the second report from the Post, Snyder condemned the behavior described in the article and said he would take steps to ensure the organization is “diverse, inclusive and respectful of all.” He also called the article a “hit job” for relying on un-named sources and on “decades-old allegations.”
Wilkinson’s investigation ended in 2021, finding that the workplace environment in Washington’s organization was “highly unprofessional” for women, noting that women were sexually harassed, bullied, intimidated and disrespected while working in Washington. The report found ownership and senior management did not pay attention to the issues and that often senior executives themselves committed the inappropriate conduct.
The report credited the Snyders for their re-organization at the top of the franchise and efforts made to improve the diversity and culture of the team with several hires, firings of staff that engaged in misconduct and improvements in policies and protocols regarding conduct. The Snyders agreed to 10 recommendations to improve the organization, and were fined $10 million by Goodell, along with covering the fees for Wilkinson’s investigation, as a result of the findings. The official report from Wilkinson was not released.
Not long after the NFL announced the fine, emails between Washington general manager Bruce Allen, former NFL coach Jon Gruden and others that showed racist, misogynistic and homophobic messages from 2010 to 2018 were leaked to The New York Times. The leak led to Gruden resigning as Raiders head coach, and prompted the House Committee on Oversight and Reform requesting documents and information from the NFL regarding the investigation into Washington’s workplace culture.
Congressional hearings began over the workplace misconduct allegations in 2022. Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and later marketing manager, told the committee that Snyder had sexually harassed her when he put his hand on her thigh during a team dinner and pushed her toward his limousine with his hand on her lower back, according to The Associated Press.
In June, the committee asked both Snyder and Goodell to testify, but Snyder declined. The committee later released a document that claimed Snyder had a “shadow investigation” that aimed to discredit employees who would claim sexual harassment took place and had private investigators intimidate witnesses, per the AP. In July, Snyder agreed to appear virtually, where he spoke for 10 hours and talked about the efforts the team has made to improve over the past two years.
Daniel Snyder federal investigation, explained
The lawsuit announcement comes just eight days after ESPN reported the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia opened a criminal investigation into the Commanders for alleged financial improprieties. Racine explained during the press conference that there will be more on this investigation “next week.”
Back in April, the Virginia attorney general opened an investigation into allegations the Commanders engaged in financial improprieties, which stemmed from the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s investigation into workplace harassment claims, according to ESPN. The team “categorically” denied the claims of financial impropriety. The D.C. attorney general later joined the investigation into the allegations.
ESPN reported on Nov. 2 that the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia had begun a criminal investigation into the financial improprieties, with a focus on deceptive business practices.
“It is not surprising that ESPN is publishing more falsehoods based solely on anonymous sources — given today’s announcement,” attorney John Brownlee of Holland & Knight, who represents the franchise, told ESPN in a statement. “…We are confident that, after these agencies have had a chance to review the documents and complete their work, they will come to the same conclusion as the team’s internal review — that these allegations are simply untrue.”
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told ESPN the NFL engaged Mary Jo White, former SEC chair, in April to review the claims.
ESPN reported the House committee found evidence of withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans, including having retained up to $5 million from season-ticket holders in 2016.
Is Daniel Snyder selling the Commanders?
Snyder has been under pressure to sell the team for many years. But there now appears to be reason to believe it could be a possibility.
On Nov. 2, the team announced the Snyders had hired Bank of America to pursue “potential transactions,” which could hint at a possible sale of the team. When the organization was asked by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport about whether that meant Snyder was looking to sell the team or just part of the team, a spokesperson told Rapoport that “We are exploring all options.”
The possibility of Snyder selling the team has prompted reports of potentially interested suitors to emerge, including Amazon head Jeff Bezos, who would be considered the frontrunner, per Front Office Sports.
Racine said during his press conference that a sale of the team would not end the civil lawsuit.
How much did Daniel Snyder pay for the Commanders?
According to Front Office Sports, Snyder purchased the team in 1999 for $800 million. Adjusting for inflation, that would mean the team cost roughly $1.45 billion to purchase.
What would Snyder be able to net today in a sale? According to Forbes, the Commanders are the sixth-highest valued team in the NFL, with a value of $5.6 billion and an operating income of $130.3 million. Only the Cowboys ($8 billion), Patriots ($6.4 billion), Rams ($6.2 billion), Giants ($6 billion) and Bears ($5.8 billion) received a higher valuation.
Daniel Snyder net worth
Per Forbes, Snyder has a net worth of $4.9 billion, as of Nov. 10, 2022. Forbes reports that he made his wealth through Snyder Communications, which he took public in 1996 and sold for $2.1 billion in stock in 2000.
Needless to say, selling the team for more than $5 billion would certainly be a major boon for his bank account.