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DC Sues Washington Commanders Again Claiming Season Ticket Holders Cheated

November 18, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
DC Sues Washington Commanders Again Claiming Season Ticket Holders Cheated
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine speaks during a news conference in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia’s attorney general sued the Washington Commanders football team Thursday for allegedly keeping refundable deposits that were supposed to be returned to season ticket holders.

The lawsuit says the team violated Washington, D.C.’s, consumer protection laws.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said the refund dispute is “another example of egregious mismanagement and illegal conduct by Commanders executives who seem determined to lie, cheat, and steal from District residents in as many ways as possible.”

The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court was the second in eight days by Racine’s office.

The first accused team owner Dan Snyder of encouraging a hostile work environment that included sexual harassment of cheerleaders. It also accuses National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell of helping to cover up the workplace abuses.

The lawsuit filed Thursday invokes the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act when it says the Commanders were required under their contracts with ticket holders to return their security deposits. The law bans misleading statements by merchants or businesses that could harm local residents.

Whistleblower employees disclosed what they called financial improprieties to a congressional committee that was investigating how Snyder and his executives managed the team behind the scenes. The House Oversight and Reform Committee started its investigation after news reports in 2020 about the team’s treatment of employees.

The committee reported its findings in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. It said the team might have withheld as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and possibly hid funds that were supposed to be shared with other NFL teams.

Since then, the Commanders have returned some of the deposits to season ticket holders but still improperly hold about $200,000, according to Racine.

The lawsuit seeks a court order against the alleged exploitation of customers and financial penalties against the team.

The Commanders’ contract with season ticket holders promised their deposits would be refunded within 30 days after the contracts expired. The deposit amounts varied with the seats purchased but typically ran into hundreds of dollars.

When ticket holders requested the refunds, the Commanders would impose additional conditions they did not disclose previously, according to the lawsuit. 

At one point, a Commanders’ employee alerted the team’s corporate officers in 2009 that withholding the refunds violated the contract terms, “but the team continued to impose these additional obligations on consumers,” Racine said.

The Commanders denied most of the allegations, saying they have not required security deposits in more than a decade and returned the ones they did accept.

The team also said in a statement that they “engaged an outside law firm and forensic auditors to conduct an extensive review of the team’s accounts which found no evidence that the team intentionally withheld security deposits that should have been returned to customers or that the team improperly converted any unclaimed deposits to revenue.”

Commanders owner Snyder in recent weeks reportedly hired an investment bank to search for potential buyers of the NFL franchise.

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com or on Twitter at @tramstack.

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