NFL notebook: Commanders send letter to FTC denying financial impropriety

WASHINGTON – The NFL’s Washington Commanders denied several allegations of financial impropriety in a letter sent Monday to the US Federal Trade Commission.

The 19-page letter including testimony, emails and other documents came as a response to the US House Oversight and Reform Committee asking the FTC to look into the team’s business practices. There are more than 80 pages of signed affidavits, emails and text message exchanges laid out as the team’s evidence.

The committee last week told the FTC it found evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans. The NFL said it engaged Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White “to review the most serious matters raised by the committee.”

The letter signed by Jordan W. Siev from the law firm Reed Smith denies all of those allegations and takes aim at the motives and character of former VP of sales and customer service Jason Friedman, whose testimony against the team framed the committee’s recommendation. Siev argues no financial investigation is warranted, saying the committee never requested information about the allegations made, which the Commanders believe would clear them of any wrongdoing.

“The committee did not request a single document from the team; the committee did not invite a single representative of the team to address the truth of the matters contained in the committee’s letter; and the committee did not pose questions to the team to answer in writing about its allegations, or provide any mechanism whatsoever for the team to address the truth of the allegations, ”the letter said. “Had the committee posed any of these questions or requests to the team, the team could – and would – easily and fully have rebutted each allegation.”

Congress began looking into the team’s workplace misconduct after the league did not release a report detailing the findings of an independent investigation into the matter, which led to a $ 10 million fine but no other discipline. The committee said the NFL and the team “have taken steps to hold key documents and information.”

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In a statement sent to The Associated Press on April 4, a Commanders spokeswoman said there was “absolutely no withholding of ticket revenue at any time” and pointed to audits by multiple parties, adding that “anyone who offered testimony suggesting with withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple. ”

Lawyer Lisa Banks, who represents Friedman, said at the time the team defamed her client, who she said “testified truthfully, with evidence.”

Friedman testified before Congress saying the team had two separate financial books: one with underreported ticket revenue that went to the NFL and the full, complete picture. According to testimony, owner Dan Snyder was aware of the numbers shared with the league while also being privy to the actual data.

In the team’s letter to the FTC, former director of finance Paul Szczenski is quoted as saying, “I can state unequivocally that I never helped maintain, or saw anyone else maintain, a` second set ‘of books. The team also cites declarations from former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman and former general counsel David Donovan along with emails and other documents to refute allegations cited by the Oversight Committee.

The team called Friedman’s accusations baseless, false and reckless and painted him as a disgruntled former employee. Banks and fellow attorney Debra Katz said in a statement to The Associated Press that Friedman is prepared to defend himself publicly if Snyder allows him to do so, but in the meantime would communicate directly with the team about what they called “demonstrably false allegations.”

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“Mr. Friedman stands by his testimony, which was truthful and based on his experiences with the team, ”Banks and Katz said. “He is happy to answer follow-up questions from Congress, the FTC, or any government agency.”

BROWNS: Cleveland’s two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward agreed to a five-year, $ 100.5 million contract extension with the Browns, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

Ward’s deal includes $ 71.25 million guaranteed, said the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the 24-year-old has not yet signed the contract. The Browns begin their offseason program Tuesday.

With a yearly average of $ 20.1 million, Ward will be the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, surpassing the $ 20 million per year for Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl champion.

Ward has developed into one of the league’s premiere defensive backs – and one of Cleveland’s best players – in the four seasons since the Browns drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2018 out of Ohio State.

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The agreement with Ward continues GM Andrew Berry’s commitment to signing core players. The Browns previously gave long-term deals to All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, running back Nick Chubb and offensive lineman Joel Bitonio (second team AP All-Pro) and Wyatt Teller.

Ward is from the Cleveland area and said before last season that he hoped to spend his entire career with his hometown team. His new deal runs through the 2027 season.


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