Acrimony over allegations of financial improprieties within the Washington Commanders’ front office escalated Monday with dueling statements from the team and the attorney of the former employee who made the claim to members of Congress.
“There has been absolutely no withholding of ticket revenue at any time by the Commanders,” the team’s three-sentence statement read. “Those revenues are subject to independent audits by multiple parties. Anyone who offered testimony suggesting a withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple.”
Lawyer Lisa Banks, who represents more than 40 former team employees including Jason Friedman, a former vice president of ticketing who worked for the team for more than 20 years, countered with a statement defending her client and noting that he provided the panel with evidence to support the allegations.
The Commanders’ statement “defamed my client, Jason Friedman, who came forward at the request of the Congressional Oversight Committee and testified truthfully, with evidence,” Banks wrote. “Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman is unable to defend himself publicly due to contractual constraints that prevent him from speaking freely. He would be happy to recount his testimony if [team owner] Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders allow him to do so. I will await their response.”
The House Oversight Committee launched its investigation of Washington in October, dissatisfied with the lack of transparency in the NFL-sponsored investigation into reports of pervasive sexual harassment and toxicity in the team’s workplace.
While the panel’s focus remains on the Commanders’ workplace culture and the NFL’s response, it now is looking into Friedman’s allegations of financial improprieties.
Evidence that the Commanders, under Snyder, attempted to withhold ticket revenue could give the NFL new reason to sanction the owner.
The league declined to comment on Monday’s statements.
The league’s business model is based on a decades-old practice of mandatory revenue-sharing, in which all 32 teams share equally in national broadcast revenue. In addition, each team must share roughly 40 percent of its ticket sales.
Proof that the team engaged in misleading or deceptive business practices also could complicate Snyder’s pursuit of tax breaks and other public funds and concessions to help build a new stadium for the team, as federal and state officials mull whether to award such handouts to the owner of a $4.2 billion asset.
The 45-member House Oversight Committee is the investigative arm of Congress. Its chair, currently Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), has subpoena power to compel the production of documents not willingly provided, as well as the authority to convene hearings on matters of public interest.
So far, the panel has not taken either step in investigating the Commanders or the NFL. Its team of lawyers and investigators is reviewing more than 80,000 pages of documents, provided by the NFL at its request, related to the league’s initial investigation of sexual harassment in the workplace. That 10-month probe, led by Washington attorney Beth Wilkinson, culminated with a $10 million fine against the team.
The committee is sharply divided on the merits of investigating the Washington team’s workplace and the NFL’s response. Its Republican leaders have argued that the panel has no role in this matter, citing other issues they say are of far greater concern to American taxpayers.
On Friday, GOP Oversight spokesman Austin Hacker issued a statement characterizing the recent claim of financial improprieties as “one-sided, unconfirmed, unsupported allegations from a disgruntled ex-employee with an ax to grind” and evidence that the investigation is “a waste of Congress’ time.”
Hacker stated the committee had heard from a second witness regarding claims of financial improprieties, who denied any such improprieties.