In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

With the possibility of an NFL lock-out looming, it appears that Dan Snyder’s back-up plan is to spend the 2011 season trying to sue the pants off a tiny Washington media outlet, the City Paper.  What a great way to pick up cash to offset lost ticket revenue!  Although, I’ve read that Snyder’s lawyers have suggested that any proceeds will be donated to charity.  If so, can I suggest starting a legal defense fund for the City Paper?  We’re not talking about the Washington Post.

According to the Associated Press and other major news organizations, the Redskins owner is suing the City Paper and its parent company for $2 million plus punitive damages and court costs claiming defamation in a November 19th article called “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder.”  And, depending on which on-line report you read, Snyder either is or isn’t seeking the dismissal of the story’s author, Dave McKenna.  Snyder is also reportedly upset with other articles that have appeared in the City Paper since 2009, and he seems notably unhappy with the photo art that went along with the “Fan Guide” that depicts Snyder with a beard and devil’s horns.   Reportedly, Snyder’s lawyers have gone so far as to get a west coast rabbi to label the crudely drawn horns as “anti-semitic.”   For the record, Snyder is Jewish.

Now, to be completely honest, I had not read the McKenna article until the lawsuit story broke.  And, I couldn’t pick Dave McKenna out of a lineup even if he was alone.  I would classify the writing as “tongue-in-cheek” humor with an EDGE.   A SHARP EDGE, at that.  At first glance, the article’s “A-Z” approach pretty much hits all the low points of the Snyder-era as Redskins owner; on and off the field.   (I think we can all agree that the “high points” wouldn’t make for much of an article).  To call it libel or defamation is a stretch, at best.   To call the photo embellishment of Snyder anti-semitic is a longer stretch.   To call it unflattering would pretty much hit the nail on the head.

So, I can see why Danny is displeased with his portrayal.  But, why on earth would he draw attention to a not-so-positive article from a media outlet with a very limited readership (sorry City Paper) and turn it into a NATIONAL HEADLINE and splash it across the worldwide web, ESPN, the Washington Post, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum?  Is it because to claim libel somebody actually has to have read the allegedly libelous article in the first place?   If it were only that simple for Snyder’s lawyers.  You see, there’s the issue of proving malice, and there’s the sticky little issue of Snyder being a public figure (unflattering stuff comes with the territory).   Oh, and I seem to recall this little note from my Business Law class in college, “You can’t libel someone with the truth.”   And, while Snyder is claiming the article in question contains “lies, half-truths, and innuendo” designed to smear him, the City Paper says the facts of the story are facts.  And, let’s not forget the First Amendment here.  Danny’s lawyers could clearly use a little re-fresher on this one.

So, what is the truth?  Well, the truth is, as they say, out there.  Snyder may lose, but he can afford to lose.   The City Paper probably can’t afford to win, lose, or draw.  Money is power, and Danny is flexing the money muscle, for sure.   But, bizarrely, this might actually be the best thing that’s ever happened to McKenna and the City Paper.   Money just can’t buy the exposure they’re getting right now.

As for the outcome,  Snyder might wind up proving the original point of McKenna’s article. (If you get my drift).  And, if you didn’t, let me just say that Danny might just have clinched another “Sports Jerk of the Year” award from Tank McNamara.   More critically, however, Snyder may have committed the biggest PR blunder in NFL history.   Never bite the hand that feeds your ego.  The City Paper is an easy target for a bully and his legal team, but it’s not alone out there. The media can and will bite back.

And, the fans?   Dan Snyder lost them years ago.

Ross is the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0

  1. Who ever thought they would see a time in this once proud franchise’s history when the Washington Wizards had a worse road record than the Washington Generals! Maybe they can find a seat for player/coach Red Klotz among all the other ineffective assistants.

  2. Voting closes on “Sports Jerk of the Year” on Feb. 9.. Vote early & often, Skins fans!

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