Washington — The U.S. House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying it found evidence the NFL’s Washington Commanders engaged in potentially unlawful financial conduct for more than a decade by withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.
In the letter obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, the committee outlined through the testimony of former employees and access to emails and documents a pattern of financial impropriety by owner Dan Snyder and team executives. At one point in 2016, the committee said the team retained up to $5 million from 2,000 season-ticket holders while also concealing sharable revenue from the league.
One former employee testified before Congress saying the team had two separate financial books — one with underreported ticket revenue that went to the NFL — and the full, complete picture. According to testimony, Snyder was aware of the numbers shared with the league while also being privy to the actual data.
The business practice was known as “juice” inside Washington’s front office. And, if correct, it could spell significant trouble for Snyder and the Commanders.
Ticket revenue is shared among all 32 NFL teams, with 40% of it deposited in a visiting team fund. Such money is among the pillars of the league’s revenue-sharing commitment.
A team spokeswoman said there was no new comment and referred to the statement from March 31: “The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time.”
“We adhere to strict internal processes that are consistent with industry and accounting standards, are audited annually by a globally respected independent auditing firm, and are also subject to regular audits by the NFL. We continue to cooperate fully with the Committee’s work.”
The league did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The committee is sharing documents with the FTC while requesting the commission take any action necessary to make sure the money is returned to its rightful owners.
Congress launched an investigation into the team’s workplace misconduct after the league did not release a report detailing the findings of an independent probe into the matter. After testimony from former employees, that investigation expanded to the organization’s finances.
Lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former employees, including some who testified, called the letter “damning.”
“It’s clear that the team’s misconduct goes well beyond the sexual harassment and abuse of employees already documented and has also impacted the bottom line of the NFL, other NFL owners, and the team’s fans,” they said in a statement. “We are proud of our many clients who have come forward at great personal risk to reveal the truth and bring us closer to total transparency about the full extent of the dysfunction at the Washington Commanders.”
Associated Press reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed.