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Snyder, Commanders, NFL, Goodell sued by DC attorney general

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were sued by the District of Columbia on Thursday, accused of colluding to deceive fans by lying about an inquiry into “sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment” within the team.

The individual club and the league as a whole were also named in the consumer protection civil lawsuit, which D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said was based on his office’s investigation that began in the fall of 2021.

Racine said the defendants jointly “misled the public” about the contents of, and procedure surrounding lawyer Beth Wilkinson’s examination of the team’s workplace culture that began in 2020. His office seeks a court order that will force the league to release Wilkinson’s findings.

“For years, the team and its owner have caused very real and very serious harm and then lied about it to dodge accountability,” Racine said, also pointing a finger at Goodell and the NFL. “They did all of this to hide the truth, protect their images and let the profits continue to roll.”

Racine said that even though the team practices in Virginia and plays its games in Maryland, it is strongly connected to Washington and violated D.C. consumers’ rights. Racine said the capital city’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act provides for fines of up to $5,000 per lie — which his office estimated could result in millions of dollars in penalties.

Asked about a parallel review into the Commanders’ finances and withholding money from season-ticket holders, Racine said, “There’ll be more news on that next week.” The U.S. House Committee for Oversight and Reform, which has one of a handful of other investigations into Snyder, referred a case about the club’s potential financial improprieties to the Federal Trade Commission in April, citing questionable business practices related to ticket revenue.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wilkinson’s investigation was thoroughly and comprehensively conducted, the league publicly released a summary and imposed a record-setting fine of $10 million on the team and its ownership.

“We reject the legally unsound and factually baseless allegations made today by the D.C. Attorney General against the NFL and Commissioner Goodell and will vigorously defend against those claims,” McCarthy wrote in an email.

Lawyers representing the Commanders said Snyder and his wife and co-owner, Tanya, acknowledged an unacceptable workplace culture more than two years ago and “have apologized many times for allowing that to happen.”

“We agree with AG Racine on one thing: the public needs to know the truth,” Commanders counsel John Brownlee and Stuart Nash said in a statement sent through a team spokesperson. “Although the lawsuit repeats a lot of innuendo, half-truths and lies, we welcome this opportunity to defend the organization — for the first time — in a court of law and to establish, once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction.”

The filing Thursday in D.C. Superior Court says Snyder “cultivated an environment … that glorifies sexual harassment and punishes victims for speaking out.” According to the complaint, team “employees say the workplace was ‘like the mafia’ … creating a culture of fear and paranoia.”

“The misconduct did not just go to the top; it originated there,” the court filing says, noting that a former long-time team executive said employees referred to Snyder as the “Chief Harassing Officer.”

The complaint outlines ways in which the attorney general’s office says Snyder has been accused of “further cultivating the team’s culture of sexual harassment,” such as bringing “women believed to be sex workers to work-related events,” overseeing the team’s cheerleading program and exercising “control over everything, from which cheerleading candidates made the cut, to which photos were used in the cheerleader calendar, to how revealing the cheerleading uniforms would be.”

The team remains the subject of multiple other ongoing investigations, including by the attorney general of Virginia, Congress and the NFL. Goodell has said there is no timetable for when former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White’s review on behalf of the league will be completed.

Racine said the D.C. attorney general’s office will issue subpoenas and seek testimony under oath. He took a shot at Snyder’s virtual testimony with the House Oversight Committee by saying depositions are “not likely to occur on a yacht but in a conference room in the District of Columbia.”

The Snyders announced last week they hired Bank of America Securities to look into selling part or all of the team. A team spokesperson said they were “exploring all options” in regards to the organization that Forbes values at $5.6 billion.

“If he sells the team,” Racine said, “he’s still a defendant.”

Racine said the lawsuit is happening in civil court because his office does not have criminal jurisdiction on the matter. He is leaving office Jan. 2 and expects successor Brian Schwalb to continue the case.

Lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said the civil complaint “is further evidence of what we’ve long known: that both the Commanders and the NFL have engaged in deception and lies designed to conceal the team’s decades of sexual harassment and abuse, which has impacted not only the victims of that abuse, but also consumers.”

Former club employees Megan Imbert and Melanie Coburn attended the news conference, and Imbert said she and others who worked for the team have been seeking accountability and transparency. She believes this is a significant step.

“This is kind of the moment we’ve been waiting for,” Imbert said. “We’ve been through a lot, even the past 2½ years, and it’s been scary, but I think the law’s on our side and I’m just looking forward to what the future holds. This is the most significant day of the past 2½ years for me.”

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AP National Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/washington-commanders-nfl-sports-lawsuits-football-d0893bc53a69cbbe745d10e69f2688fd

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49ers head into offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major questions at quarterback after a season filled with injuries to the most important position ended without any of them physically able to throw the the ball downfield.

Trey Lance, who began the season as starter, is getting close to being fully cleared following two operations on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to the starter that helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before getting hurt himself, is figuring out how to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter in between those two before breaking his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl about whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that has gone to the NFC title game or further in three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question at the position will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards because of the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and stuff I think helps in terms of allowing me to go back in the game and hand the ball off — even that was pretty painful. But just overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.”

An MRI revealed the tear and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to figure out whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is much more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them up to a year. But Purdy is hoping to avoid that; a simpler repair would keep him out for six months but allow him to return to practice around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws compared to a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little bit faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who have gone through this kind of thing. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m trying to find out which one is right for myself.”

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last pick of the draft to starter in the conference title game. He won all seven of his starts before the loss on Sunday and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

That performance could make him the favorite to begin next season as starter if he’s healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

Lance was supposed to be in that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he started only two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got hurt and then went down with a season-ending injury early in Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation in late December but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and to be 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after he started only five games combined in the last three years in college and the NFL, there are questions about whether Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to go out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation that it’s been for me the last two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So I don’t let that have any effect on me.”

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wants to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco but will be patient and leave that up to his agent.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend.

The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game.

Banchero — who leads all rookies with a 20.7 points-per-game average — may still be selected as an All-Star reserve. Those players will be revealed Thursday.

“Anytime you can get a chance to be a part of All-Star weekend, you can’t say no,” Banchero said. “Especially me, being a rookie, first year, never experienced it before, it’s always been the dream to just be a part of that whether it was Rising Stars or as a reserve. I’m definitely excited to get there and just see what it’s like.”

Banchero is on pace to be the first rookie to average 20 points per game since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He also is fourth among rookies in rebounds per game entering Tuesday and third among them in steals per game.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the All-Star experience — whether just for Rising Stars or not — will have an impact on Banchero.

“Just being around other young players that have found themselves in that position, it does so much because it’s your peers,” Mosley said. “You’re around a group of young men who are the elite of the league in that class. I think it says something to the work that you’ve put in, the work that he’s put in. It’s going to do wonders for how he continues to believe in himself, what we’re doing as a team and his continued growth.”

Also picked for the game from this year’s rookie class: Detroit’s Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, Atlanta’s A.J. Griffin, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr., San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams.

The second-year players selected were New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, New York’s Quentin Grimes, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Orlando’s Franz Wagner.

There also will be a team of G League players in the Rising Stars event, composed of Sidy Cissoko, Mojave King, Scoot Henderson, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Mac McClung, Leonard Miller and Scotty Pippen Jr.

The 21 NBA players will be drafted into three seven-player teams. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will serve as coaches for those teams, while Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

All four teams will play a semifinal game with a target score of 40, and the two winners will then play the championship game with a target score of 25.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her.

If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel accommodations — such as chartered flights — the league will have to come up with a plan for the 6-foot-9 star. Griner’s safety when traveling will be a top priority for the team and the league.

“We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts. BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”

That could come Wednesday, when free agents can officially sign.

While the Griner situation is unique, other marquee players raised the issue of charter flights, which teams have deemed too costly.

The current collective bargaining agreement requires that all teams fly commercial and doesn’t allow teams to charter flights. Any change in that would have to be approved by both the union and the league.

“No one wants to make this work more than me,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to transform the economic business model. We’ve had positive changes over the last couple years, but we’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of the league. We are on the cusp of something big here.”

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST THE WNBA TO CHARTER FLIGHTS?

Engelbert says it would cost the league about $25 million each season for each of its 12 teams to charter flights to every game. That number has increased about $5 million from previous estimates by the commissioner due the new 40-game WNBA schedule this season, fuel costs and other factors.

The estimated cost per franchise to charter flights would be approximately $2 million. Air travel expenses currently for each team is about $150,000, according to two people familiar with the costs. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly address the issue.

“We did it last year for the Finals and we have experience on how much it costs for routes we need to fly,” Engelbert said. “We are monitoring and updating our analysis. We are going to try and get an economic model to fund this as soon as we can.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF A TEAM CHARTERS FLIGHTS?

If teams violate the current CBA they could be fined.

The New York Liberty were fined a WNBA record $500,000 in 2021 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of that season.

HAS THE WNBA CONSIDERED SUBSIDIZING FLIGHTS?

Coveted free agent Breanna Stewart, who has narrowed her choices to a few teams including New York, started a social media campaign to try to help get chartered flights for the league. She tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product. Who’s with me?”

Many current and former WNBA and NBA players offered their support. Though any change to travel restrictions would have to be voted on by the union and the league.

“We would need a commitment to it in perpetuity,” Engelbert said. “That’s 250-300 million dollars. Look at the gate and media deal and sponsorship dollars. We’re not close to being able to afford $250 million over the next decade.”

DO WOMEN’S COLLEGE TEAMS CHARTER FLIGHTS?

WNBA players are used to flying charter flights. That’s how they traveled in college.

Title IX legislation requires universities to have equal opportunities for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. The NCAA flies both the men’s and women’s teams on charter flights for the tournament if they are more than 400 miles from the site of their game.

That legislation doesn’t apply to the pros so NBA teams chartering between cities has no effect on what WNBA teams do.

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