D.C. Attorney General’s lawsuit against NFL and Commanders makes creative use of consumer protection laws

Commanders Lawsuit
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The D.C. Attorney General has decided to go after the NFL and the Washington Commanders. In doing so, Karl Racine’s office will be making creative use of the District’s consumer protection laws.

I’ve reviewed the full 38-page lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday. The vast majority of the document contains factual allegations. At page 35, Racine begins to state the legal theories supporting the litigation.

The case arises from the Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Such laws typically relate to statements made about goods. For example, if the seller of toothpaste puts on the label “now including no shards of broken glass” and the product actually contains shards of broken glass, the CPPA would be violated. (There would be other potential legal issues, too.)

As to the Commanders and the NFL, the argument is that the product generated by the Commanders — NFL football — is marketed directly to D.C. residents, and that the defendants have engaged in practices that “have a tendency to mislead consumers” regarding the steps taken to eradicate a chronically toxic workplace.

The basic argument goes like this. By not being open and transparent and honest about the issues in the workplace and the investigation aimed at rectifying those issues, consumers were lied to.

While I’m fully in favor of anything that forces the Commanders and/or the NFL to release Beth Wilkinson’s report, which the league specifically didn’t want and which surely still exists somewhere in her files, it’s difficult for me to regard D.C. consumers as victims of the NFL’s shell game. Perhaps it will be argued that, if the truth had come out, consumers would have boycotted the team. That nevertheless seems speculative, at best.

Moreover, allowing this type of action would give the D.C. Attorney General license to sue other companies that market goods and services to District residents based on corporate malfeasance unrelated to the inherent nature of the product. The argument, as applied to other companies, would go something like this: “If the truth had come out about this specific issue unrelated to the quality of the product, consumers possibly would have been turned off to the product.”

Look for the NFL to make a strong argument that Racine is misapplying his authority under the CPPA. As to the Commanders, a statement already has been issued welcoming the effort to get to the truth. The team’s far better legal position would be to argue that the consumer protection laws don’t apply to matters of internal management and governance of the business.

16 responses to “D.C. Attorney General’s lawsuit against NFL and Commanders makes creative use of consumer protection laws

  1. if the attorney general turns this into a politically motivated show trial, Snyder will prevail and be owner forever

  2. I’m not a lawyer but this was basically the same conclusion I came to yesterday. They are trying to use consumer protection laws to police internal business management issues.

  3. A nothingburger. Snyder totally deserves the legal piling on . Some are merited, investigative investigations, with high probability of success. Some aren’t.
    The legal machine grinds on. , but every…every Washington fans knows all these allegations are true. Right now .

  4. I don’t know. The argument that “Company A has been polluting ground water and makes people sick but kept it secret, and if people had known they would not have supported Company A by buying it’s product,” seems legit. I think that’s what their rationale is; “If fans had known how toxic, harmful and disturbing the work environment was, they wouldn’t have supported the team.” Look no further than the Browns and Watson to find a good portion of a fan base that has made it clear that they will not support a team that has chosen to pay a player of dubious character. I’d say it’s not all that big a reach.

  5. With great wealth comes great complacency. Except for maybe half a dozen exceptions, NFL owners have no incentive to field teams worth the price of admission. Washington DC, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Charlotte, etc. prove that there is much money to be made and prestige to be enjoyed on the flight from competitive quality. Zero accountability. Zero consequences for perpetuating the ongoing fraud. Seen in this perspective, Irsay makes a ton of sense.

  6. A total joke of a law suit that will go down in flames…and I can’t stand Snyder but this is just another silly attempt at publicity by another grandstanding AG.

  7. In this context, I think “creative” is synonamous with “frivolous” “absurd” and “outrageous overreach”. That is not to defend the Commanders organization or the NFL. The individuals who were directly harmed should seek justice, but a grandstanding AG, especially in a place like DC, has bigger problems to address IMO.

  8. The NFL is a soft target. They don’t lobby and they stay out of politics. Not like rapacious corporations which are protected by elected officials they own. Let’s see this brave Attorney General take on one of those.

  9. I agree that’s a stretch. I’m not even sure you can claim it affected the product. The part of Snyder that was making bad decisions for the team is different from the part of him that’s a sleaze bag. (The incompetence vs the nasty)

  10. Corrupt internal management leads directly to defective, dangerous products. A company whose leadership engages in harassment of female employees does not care about producing safe products.

    In this case, it is obvious that the Commanders have blatantly lied to DC consumers, and consumers nationwide, about the condition of a business that those consumers are paying good money for. It is perfectly appropriate the DC Attorney General to bring this action under the CCPA.

  11. Teflon Goddell probably laughed when he read this on his iPhone at the golf course. Then he put the cigar back in his mouth and readied his swing.

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