DC attorney general sues NFL and Washington Commanders

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Commanders helmetImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Prosecutors have accused the Commanders of a hostile working environment

Prosecutors in Washington DC have sued the Commanders American football team, accusing it of deceiving fans about efforts to probe a "hostile" and "misogynistic" workplace.

The civil lawsuit announced on Thursday also accuses team owner Dan Snyder and the National Football League (NFL) of colluding to mislead the public.

Authorities have long accused the team of of sexual harassment and misconduct.

The team said it welcomed the chance to defend the organisation in court.

The lawsuit, was announced on Thursday by DC Attorney General Karl Racine.

It alleges that, when faced with "public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct", the Commanders, Mr Snyder and NFL officials made a series of public statements aimed at convincing the public that "this dysfunctional and misogynistic conduct was limited and that they were fully cooperating with an independent investigation".

At a news conference, Mr Racine said that "all that deception was done to protect their profits and their image".

The Attorney General's office is also seeking to force the NFL to unveil the findings of a previous investigation into working conditions at the American football franchise, which ultimately led the league to fine the team $10m (£8.5m).

The league and its commissioner, Robert Goodell, had previously resisted releasing the findings of that investigation, citing privacy concerns. A separate NFL investigation being carried out and its findings are expected to be released publicly.

Mr Racine pointed to a number of specific allegations against the team, including "voyeuristic videos of partially clad cheerleaders" and the firing of a cheerleader who reported sexual misconduct by a player.

Additionally, Mr Racine said that Mr Snyder - contrary to public statements - not only was aware of the allegations, but "encouraged and participated in it".

The lawsuit alleges that Mr Snyder, Mr Goodell and the NFL colluded to "deceive" Washington DC residents and "secretly entered into an agreement that the public didn't know about" in a bid to "hide the truth, protect their images and let their profits continue to roll".

It is unclear what, if any damages are being sought in the case.

In a statement sent to the BBC, the Commanders said the the team and Dan Snyder had "acknowledged that an unacceptable workplace culture had existed within their organisation for several years and they have apologised many times for allowing that to happen".

"We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth," the statement added. "Although the lawsuit repeats a lot of innuendo, half-truths and lies, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organisation - for the first time - in a court of law and to establish, once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction."

The BBC was unable to reach the NFL for comment on the lawsuit.

The team - which was briefly known as the "Washington Football Team" after dropping its controversial "Redskins" name in 2020 - has recently sparred with the attorney general's office following the shooting of a player during an attempted robbery three months ago.

In a statement sent to the Washington Post earlier this week, the team accused Mr Racine of using his position and the investigation to make "splashy headlines" instead of "doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players".