The Washington Commanders didn’t dispute the team made false statements about a former employee who sued the franchise and one of its outside lawyers for defamation in July.
Lawyers for the Commanders and attorney John Brownlee, however, argued that the lawsuit, which seeks $7.85 million in damages, should be compelled into arbitration, which is the direction in which the dispute is heading.
Attorneys for former ticket office exec Jason Friedman, the Commanders and Brownlee agreed to enter arbitration, according to sources with knowledge of a filing that is expected to hit the Loudoun County (Va.) Circuit Court docket by week’s end.
A judge will need to approve the motion in the coming days — which typically is a formality — and then the civil case will be stayed as the arbitration process begins.
Friedman’s attorney, Adam Herzog,” alleged in the lawsuit that the Commanders and Brownlee “repeatedly and publicly” called Friedman “a liar,” and accused him of “committing the federal crime of perjury.” The lawsuit alleged the Commanders “falsely” alleged that Friedman was “terminated as part of the team’s sexual harassment scandal that was being widely reported in the press.”
There were three public statements Friedman alleged in his defamation lawsuit:
- An April 4, 2021, statement to a handful of media outlets after FOS broke news of a scheme where the Commanders allegedly held back ticket revenue from the league. In that statement, the Commanders denied ever holding back ticket revenue and stated anyone who gave such testimony to Congress “has committed perjury, plain and simple.”
- Days the House Oversight Committee forwarded a letter to the Federal Trade Commission alleging such a scheme existed, the Commanders sent a response to the FTC in April 2021 that stated that Friedman — who has named in the letter — is a “serial liar,” and called Friedma’s testimony the “implausible allegations of a single disgruntled former employee.”
- The final statement in Friedman’s lawsuit honed in on a radio appearance by Brownlee in June 2021, where he said Friedman was fired “because he became the very toxic work environment that the Team was trying to rid itself [of].” Friedman was not fired as a result of any toxic workplace investigations conducted by the NFL or the team.
The NFL released its latest investigation into the team on July 20, the same day Josh Harris secured approval from NFL ownership to purchase the Commanders for $6.05 billion.
The probe led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White confirmed Freidman’s testimony to Congress and a sexual harassment claim by former Commanders employee Tiffani Johnston.
“Contrary to the club’s unequivocal public denials of Mr. Friedman’s allegations and its public attacks on his character and credibility, the club has now acknowledged, as alleged by Mr. Friedman, that employees reclassified NFL revenues to non-shareable accounts, causing the club to apparently underreport NFL revenues for sharing,” White’s report stated.
Snyder was fined a record $60 million by the NFL as a result of the White investigation.
In a motion to compel arbitration filed in the case by the Commanders and Brownlee in September, lawyers for the defendants stated that Friedman’s claims “all are subject to binding arbitration agreements in three different contracts that Friedman signed.” Those three contracts were attached as exhibits in the filings.
It is expected that an arbitrator will preside over the civil case to determine whether the Commanders and Brownlee are liable for defamation and, if either of the defendants is found to have committed defamation, decide on the award. Additionally, this process removes the case from public view as arbitration proceedings are private.