(Reuters) -Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a civil lawsuit against Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, the team, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell for colluding to deceive people about an investigation into the team’s toxic workplace culture in a bid to protect its profits.
The NFL fined the Commanders $10 million last year after an independent investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson found numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment, but the full report was never released.
“The Commanders and Dan Snyder lied to DC residents about what they knew about a toxic culture of sexual harassment and then they entered into a secret agreement with the NFL and Commissioner Goodell that kept the truth from DC residents – all in an effort to protect them profits,” Racine said on Thursday.
“In DC, you can’t lie to consumers to enrich yourself and get away with it. That’s what this lawsuit is about: standing up for DC residents who were deceived and misled. No one – not even Mr. Snyder – is above the law.”
Attorneys for the team told ESPN that Snyder had acknowledged that an unacceptable workplace culture had existed within the organization for several years and had apologized many times for allowing that to happen.
“Although the lawsuit repeats a lot of innuendo, half-truths and lies, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organization,” the attorneys said.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had made public a summary of Wilkinson’s findings and rejected the “legally unsound and factually baseless allegations made today by the DC Attorney.”
Racine said he planned to subpoena Snyder, Goodell and others for sworn testimony and said defendants could face millions of dollars in penalties.
He is also seeking a court order to force the NFL to release the full findings of Wilkinson’s 10-month investigation.
Racine said that when the NFL took over the investigation from the Commanders to help ensure it was independent, the two parties entered into an agreement that gave Snyder the ability to block the release of any information he chose, including its ultimate findings, Racine said.
“Throughout the investigation, Snyder actively sought to interfere with it, including intimidating and suppressing witnesses. Then, the NFL chose to shield the results of the investigation from the public,” he said.
“They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their images and let the profits roll.”
Racine said his office’s investigation included interviewing witnesses including former team employees who experienced and witnessed harassment.
It is revealed that Snyder and the NFL worked to prevent residents from learning the truth about what really happened inside the team in violation of DC’s consumer protection law.
Snyder this month hired Bank of America Securities to explore the potential sale of the team, which is also reportedly being investigated for possible financial improprieties.
The Commanders have previously denied any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind.
Racine said Snyder would not be able to avoid the lawsuit by selling the team, which is valued at $5.6 billion.
Additional reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond
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