Jason Friedman, who testified to Congress last year about financial improprieties committed by the Washington Commanders, has filed a lawsuit in Virginia against the team and one of its attorneys, John Brownlee, alleging defamation.
Friedman, who filed the 15-page suit in the civil division of Loudoun County District Court on July 7, asked for $7.5 million in compensatory damages and an additional $350,000 in punitive damages, in addition to fees incurred. He also asked for a jury trial.
The story was first reported by The Washington Post.
The news came three days before NFL owners will gather in Minneapolis to vote on the sale of the Commanders from Dan and Tanya Snyder to a group led by Josh Harris. Owners are expected to approve the $6.05 billion sale, ending Snyders’ 24-year reign.
On March 14, 2022, Friedman testified before the House Oversight Committee for its investigation into the commanders’ work culture under Snyder. During his closed-door testimony, Friedman accused the team of financial irregularities, prompting the committee to send a letter to the Federal Trade Commission about the allegations a month later.
The Commanders denied the allegations in a letter the team sent to the FTC. The letter contained emails and texts from Friedman to club officials.
The lawsuit stated that “The Team responded to Mr. Friedman’s allegations of financial wrongdoing by repeatedly and publicly calling him a liar, accusing him of committing the federal crime of perjury, and falsely implying that he was terminated as part of the team sexual harassment scandals. it was widely reported in the press.”
The suit also alleged that “The Team’s false statements about Mr. Friedman, which it has repeated or caused to be repeated in various public forums, have destroyed him personally and professionally: [H]e suffers from severe anxiety and depression, will require ongoing medical treatment and has been unable to find comparable employment due to the Team’s deliberate and malicious destruction of his reputation.”
“We believe this complaint is completely without merit and we will vigorously defend the team against these false allegations,” a Commanders spokesman said Monday.
Brownlee has yet to issue a statement about the lawsuit.
Friedman worked for the organization for 24 years in ticket sales, eventually becoming its vice president of sales and customer service. He was fired in the fall of 2020, shortly after Jason Wright took over as team president.
Friedman testified that the team “knowingly and knowingly” withheld funds from season ticket holders’ security deposits and that it mischaracterized revenue. In a statement, one of Friedman’s attorneys, Lisa Banks, said, “Jason Friedman testified truthfully before Congress about his experiences with the Washington Commanders. In response to his testimony, the team and its attorney publicly sought to destroy him by baselessly calling him a liar and calls into question his moral character. I am confident that Mr. Friedman will be vindicated both by the NFL’s investigation and a court of law.” Because he testified behind closed doors, the suit claims Friedman was not a public figure. Shortly after the story broke about his testimony in 2022, the team released a statement saying, in part, that “anyone who has given testimony suggesting withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple.”
Friedman’s case also pointed to the letter Washington sent to the FTC citing the “unverified and implausible allegations of a single disgruntled former employee.”
Friedman’s lawyers also say in the lawsuit that Brownlee tried to tie him to instances of sexual harassment in the organization during his time with the franchise. The suit pointed to a radio interview Brownlee did with 106.7 The Fan in which he said Friedman became the “very toxic work environment that the team was trying to extricate itself from. [of].”
Washington has settled with the attorney general’s offices in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Virginia’s attorney general has continued to investigate the allegations. The US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia also opened an investigation into possible financial improprieties committed by the commanders.
Attorney Mary Jo White is investigating Snyder and the team. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly said he will release her findings once the investigation is complete.
Congress investigated Snyder and the commanders for nearly a year before Republicans won control of the House and declined to pursue the case further.