Controversy has followed the Washington Commanders and owner Dan Snyder over the past few offseasons, and now, the pressure may be ramping up. Two weeks ago, Front Office Sports reported that the Commanders may have used “two books” of financial information and records that gave different accounts of the franchise’s financial situation. Now, evidence has come to light to support the claim.
According to the 20-page letter sent from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to the Federal Trade Commission, Snyder and the Commanders, “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct.” This reportedly includes the Commanders withholding as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders. The letter also claims Washington hid money that was to be shared among NFL owners.
The allegations were made by Jason Friedman, who served as the vice president of sales and customer service for the Commanders for 24 years. Friedman reportedly gave an account to the committee that lined up with Front Office Sports’ earlier report, saying the franchise had “two sets of books,” one of which included underreported ticket revenue. These were reportedly maintained by former CFO Stephen Choi and another employee.
The letter also alleges that Washington improperly claimed revenue by saying money came from events such as a Navy-Notre Dame college football game that took place at FedExField, as well as a Kenny Chesney concert. Friedman told the committee that he “falsely processed” over $162K from Commanders NFL game tickets as being derived from the Navy-Notre Dame game. Money from those events would not be part of the NFL’s pool, and the money made through this method was reportedly known internally as “juice.” Ticket revenue is supposed to be shared among the 32 NFL teams, with 40% deposited into a visiting team fund.
Friedman also gave the committee documents indicating that Washington withheld security deposits from customers who had purchased multi-year season tickets for certain seats that should have been returned. The Commanders have previously denied any financial malpractice.
“The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time,” the Commanders said in a statement March 31, per The Washington Post. “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.”
On Tuesday, an NFL spokesperson provided a statement to NFL Media regarding the allegations in the letter.
“We continue to cooperate with the Oversight Committee and have provided more than 210,000 pages of documents. The NFL has engaged former SEC chair Mary Jo White to review the serious matters raised by the committee.”
ESPN’s John Keim spoke with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who was one of the signatures on the letter. He said, “Quite frankly, as you go through the allegations it reads like a description of some organization out of the Godfather and not an NFL football team. It really helps to color the culture and impunity that other witnesses have described and the evidence of severe dysfunction.”
The committee sent the letter to the FTC to provide it with the information and documents necessary to determine whether the Commanders violated laws which are enforced by the FTC. According to Friedman’s testimony, Snyder and Washington could be in hot water.