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Monday, May 20, 2024

Commanders Allegedly Held Back Visiting NFL Teams’ Ticket Revenue

  • Information about alleged ticketing scheme was given to a Congressional committee investigating the team, according to sources.
  • Teams are required to pass along 40% of net ticket revenue to the NFL, which disperses the funds.
Commanders tickets
Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

The House Oversight Committee received information that alleges the Washington Commanders kept ticket revenue that is supposed to be shared with other NFL teams, sources told Front Office Sports.

According to NFL bylaws, all teams are required to pass along 40% of ticket sales from each home game — minus ticket handling charges and taxes — to the league, which then disperses the funds to visiting teams. At least one person gave information in recent weeks to Congressional investigators that alleges the Commanders didn’t pass along the full 40%, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told FOS.

It is not clear how long this alleged scheme ran for or who authorized it.

The Commanders and the NFL learned about the allegations in recent weeks, one source told FOS. 

An NFL spokesperson declined comment when reached by FOS on Saturday.

“There has been absolutely no withholding of ticket revenue at any time by the Commanders,” the Commanders said in a statement on Monday. “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.”

Minutes after the Commanders’ statement, the attorney for a former longtime Commanders employee who worked in the ticket office responded.

“The Washington Commanders just released a statement to members of the media,” attorney Lisa Banks said in a statement. “In that statement, they defamed my client, Jason Friedman, who came forward at the request of the Congressional Oversight Committee and testified truthfully, with evidence. 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 Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders allow him to do so. I will await their response.”

FOS reported on Thursday the House Oversight Committee had expanded its investigation beyond allegations the Commanders fostered a hostile workplace environment to include an examination of the finances of the team and owner Dan Snyder. 

Sources told FOS that the person who gave the information to the Democrat-led Oversight Committee was the one referenced in the following statement by GOP Oversight Committee Spokesperson Austin Hacker: 

“The leak of one-sided, unconfirmed, unsupported allegations from a disgruntled ex-employee with an ax to grind is just further proof the Democrats’ investigation is a waste of Congress’ time. Nothing the Committee has heard from any credible witness points to any financial improprieties; in fact, the only credible witness in a position to know the facts the Democrats have heard from has denied any such improprieties.”

Sources with knowledge of the information given to Oversight Committee staffers told FOS that it went beyond first-person testimony.

Ticket sales are the only part of local revenues that have to be shared among NFL owners. Teams don’t share other revenues — from parking to local sponsorship deals — with the other teams.

Ticket sales not only impact other teams, but also the players since ticket revenue is factored into overall league revenues that are used to come up with each year’s salary cap.

The 2022 season’s salary cap is $208.2 million, a $25.7 million increase. The cap dipped for the first time last season since it was implemented in 1994, largely due to the pandemic that limited fan attendance during the 2020 season. 

The Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team in the NFL, took in $77 million in ticket sales in 2019, the most recent data available for a season not impacted by the pandemic. 

The Commanders reported the second-lowest attendance last season. 

“My understanding is that the early returns of ticket sales are going very well in Washington,”  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at the owners’ meetings on Tuesday.  “They are making a lot of progress. We are very optimistic going into the season.”

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