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Commanders release Brandon McManus after sexual assault lawsuit


Commanders release Brandon McManus after sexual assault lawsuit

The Washington Commanders released kicker Brandon McManus on Sunday after he was accused by two women of sexually assaulting them on a flight last season, when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The women, who were identified as Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II in a lawsuit filed in Duval County (Fla.) Circuit Civil Court late last month, allege McManus rubbed against them during the Jaguars’ charter flight to London on Sept. 28. The women worked as flight attendants for Atlas Air, according to the complaint. The Jaguars were on their way to play games in London against the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills.

The women claim the flight “quickly turned into a party” as McManus and other players violated air travel safety regulations. According to the lawsuit, McManus “recruited” three other flight attendants and handed out $100 bills to encourage them to drink and “dance inappropriately for him.”

In a statement Sunday night, McManus’s attorney, Brett R. Gallaway, responded to the Commanders’ decision to release his client.

“Brandon would like to thank the Washington Commanders for the opportunity to be a part of the organization,” he said. “However, we reiterate that the allegations against Brandon are and remain absolutely false and, importantly, are contradicted by indisputable evidence and the accusers’ own prior inconsistent statements and omissions. While we are disappointed with the team’s decision to release Brandon before he had the opportunity to defend against these fabricated claims, we will aggressively defend and clear Brandon’s name and reputation through the legal process. We intend to defeat these claims, fully exonerate him and look forward to seeing him back on the field where he belongs.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Monday, when news of the lawsuit broke, that the league was aware of the situation and had been in contact with the Commanders, who acknowledged in a statement through a spokesperson that evening that they were made aware of the lawsuit earlier that day. “We take allegations of this nature very seriously and are looking into the matter,” the statement read. The Jaguars, who were named defendants in the lawsuit, said Monday that they were aware of the complaint and acknowledged “the significance of the claims.”

According to the court filing, Jane Doe I accused McManus of attempting to kiss her while she was strapped into the jump seat amid turbulence during the flight. The woman allegedly put her hand up to block McManus’s unwanted advance.

McManus grabbed Jane Doe I and grinded against her on two occasions as she served in-flight meals, the lawsuit alleges, adding that during the first instance, she made eye contact with another Jaguars player who appeared ashamed of his teammate’s behavior. The second instance happened under similar circumstances, according to the lawsuit: Jane Doe I was serving the second in-flight meal, and McManus again grabbed her by the waist and “rubbed his clothed but erect penis on her multiple times.”

Jane Doe II claimed McManus acted similarly with her during the second in-flight service. According to the complaint, he grinded against Jane Doe II and she could not push him away because she was holding a tray in the galley aisle. When Jane Doe II turned around and confronted McManus, he “smirked and walked away,” the filing alleges.

The women claim to have sustained “pain and suffering and psychological and emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation.” They are seeking damages in excess of $1 million and a jury trial. McManus and the Jaguars have until June 17 to respond to the complaint.

The Jaguars were accused of negligence for failing to properly hire McManus, educate him on inappropriate sexual contact, supervise his conduct in flight, create and implement a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior and create a safe environment for the airplane staff.

In an interview with “The Junkies” on 106.7 the Fan on Thursday, Tony Buzbee, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, alleged McManus brought alcohol on the team plane, which the NFL prohibits.

“I know that alcohol was brought onto the plane, and I know that there was a back-and-forth between flight attendants and some of the players, including, allegedly, Mr. McManus,” Buzbee said. “He was saying, ‘I know you can’t pour my alcohol, but at least can you pour my chaser?’ — that kind of silliness. There will be witnesses that will talk about intoxication and how intoxicated certain individuals were and how they became so intoxicated so quickly into the flight.”

The NFL prohibits alcohol at team facilities and during travel to or from games, a rule it emphasized in a 2022 memo after then-Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke was photographed with a beer in his hand during a postgame flight. The Florida court filing also alleges the women could smell marijuana coming from the airplane’s restrooms.

Buzbee told 106.7 that Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, contacted him shortly after the filing, hoping to talk with his clients. Buzbee also claimed in an Instagram post last week that, before filing the lawsuit, his firm attempted to resolve the matter outside of the court system.

“Our efforts at resolution were met with arrogance, ignorance and stupidity, strikingly similar to how Deshaun Watson’s team responded when we tried to resolve those cases pre-filing,” wrote Buzbee, who represented all but one of the quarterback’s accusers of sexual misconduct.

McManus signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars in 2023 after spending the previous nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, helping boost them to a Super Bowl 50 victory during the 2015 season. New Commanders general manager Adam Peters was Denver’s assistant director of college scouting at the time.

McManus signed with the Commanders on a one-year, $3.6 million contract in March to replace Joey Slye. By releasing McManus, the Commanders may have to eat up to $1.5 million in dead money under the salary cap from his signing bonuses. It could be less, though, depending on the forfeiture language in his contract and if McManus violated it by not informing the Commanders of the alleged incident before he signed.

In his interview with The Junkies, Buzbee said the plaintiffs worked with another attorney before turning to him, but after taking over, he issued letters to McManus’s agent and the Jaguars.

“When I couldn’t find a solid address [for McManus], we sent it to his agent. And once we sent it to his agent, we got his attention pretty quick,” Buzbee said. “We also sent it to the Jaguars organization, but I think we only sent it to them a week before the lawsuit was filed.”

For six-plus years, Washington relied on Dustin Hopkins at kicker, but a string of misses led to his departure early in the 2021 season and a carousel of replacements. There was a failed experiment with Chris Blewitt that season (three missed field goals in two games), an interim stint with Brian Johnson as Slye recovered from an injury and then two mostly decent years with Slye before McManus’s arrival.

Washington will now search for another kicker, with limited proven options available at this point in the offseason.

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