Holland & Knight partner John L. Brownlee, along with his client — NFL team the Washington Commanders — are the named defendants in a recently filed defamation lawsuit. The complaint was filed earlier this month by former Commanders executive, Jason Friedman.
The complaint alleges Friedman was called a “serial liar” and his credibility was called into question after he testified before Congress about alleged financial improprieties. Friedman is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for “economic and emotional harm.” As reported by Law360, the actions of the team and Brownlee have caused him “severe anxiety and depression.” And he says he’s been “unable to find a comparable job due to the team’s deliberate and malicious destruction of his reputation.”
As detailed in the filing, the defamatory statements allegedly began when Friedman testified about the team’s handling of season-ticket deposits.
In March 2022, Friedman, who had been fired by the Commanders in 2020, testified about improprieties in their handling of season-ticket deposits. After his testimony, the Commanders in early April released a statement denying the allegations, saying, in part, that anyone who made such accusations against the team had “committed perjury, pure and simple.”
Lisa Banks, who represents Friedman and about 40 other former employees accusing the team of sexual abuse and harassment and a toxic workplace environment, replied that the team’s statement defamed Friedman even though it had not named him. The Commanders replied with a statement saying that if Friedman believed that, “he should bring a defamation suit” and the team would “vigorously defend any such claim.”
And with this suit, Friedman said, bet.
But that wasn’t the end of the alleged defamatory statements. In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the team wrote Friedman’s allegations about financial impropriety were “a lie from the beginning,” and that he was a “serial liar” with “notable impediments to his credibility.” The team also made the letter to the FTC public “with malice, ill will and spite,” causing Friedman additional reputational harm.
Additionally, according to the complaint, Brownlee went on a radio show and said of Friedman that he “became the very toxic work environment that the team was trying to rid itself [of].”
Since the Commanders/Brownlee’s offensive against Friedman, the House Oversight Committee released a report into the work environment at the Commanders which, inter alia, included accusations the team retaliated against those who spoke out against the organization. They’ve also settled a lawsuit regarding season-ticket deposits.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.