In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on April 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

There’s an unwritten rule regarding public disputes and use of the news media. It’s very simple. The first one to run to the media to defend his position is losing the battle.

Redskins owner, Dan Snyder might not want to admit this, but he IS losing his battle with the City Paper; at least in the court of public opinion, and maybe in court, too.

Snyder took to the Opinion page of the Washington Post and to re-state his intentions in his ongoing legal tussle with the City Paper, which he claims defamed him in a November 2010 article written by Dave McKenna. (I won’t even get into the question of why the Post climbed into the middle of this mess. I guess they really need to sell papers these days.) The piece entitled, “Why I am suing Washington City Paper,” is a plea for understanding from Redskins fans. The point that Dan completely misses, however, is that Redskins fans don’t care about his personal conflict with a tiny media outlet that most had probably never heard of until he decided to sue. They only care about winning and whether there will be a 2011 NFL season.

The only thing really new in the Snyder essay is the decision to re-file the suit in Washington instead of New York for “legal reasons.” As expected, it’s a little short on facts, and long on… well… long on Dan’s hurt feelings.

But, what’s really interesting here is what’s NOT mentioned anymore. There’s no more blather about the unwarranted mocking of Dan’s wife, Tanya, for saying in a TV interview that Dan had “grown and evolved.” And, there’s no more uproar over the so-called “anti-Semitic” photo illustration (Snyder with scribbled devil’s horns) that accompanied the original City Paper story. Why? Probably, because those complaints failed to garner the public sympathy that Dan was seeking when he opted to take on the City Paper in the first place. Those arguments quite simply lacked substance.

In fact, out of the roughly 60 “failings” of Dan Snyder listed in the McKenna article only one remains at the heart of this dispute.

And that is… Drum roll please… Snyder’s continuing focus on his portrayal in decade-old allegations that his communications marketing company “forged” names in a telephone “slamming” scheme in Florida. “Slamming” means that people’s long distance providers were changed without their authorization. According to the Attorney General of Florida, Snyder Communications’ employees carried out this activity on behalf of GTE/Verizon. A substantial fine was paid to end this matter “without admitting any wrongdoing.”

Of course, proof of malice by Dave McKenna will be the burden of Snyder in his case against the City Paper; an extremely heavy legal burden for a public figure. In the Post Op-Ed piece, Snyder targets the following line from the McKenna article for the bulk of his ire, “That’s the [same] Dan Snyder who got caught forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications.” Snyder calls that accusation “false.” But, the Florida Attorney General’s April 2001 news release on the “slamming” case specifically refers to “thousands of instances” where Snyder Communications’ representatives “forged” customer signatures. Snyder obviously contends he was not one of the “representatives” in question. But, Snyder Communications was Dan Snyder’s company at the time. And, the buck stops where?

Snyder also continues to insist this is not about the money. Anything he might win is earmarked for charity. And, he doesn’t want McKenna fired. In fact, he says the whole matter would be dropped if the City Paper would just apologize and retract the “false charges.”

Dan, don’t hold your breath waiting for that apology. In an interview with WTOP, the publisher of the City Paper called the suit “frivolous.” The City Paper still stands by its story.

And to borrow from your own opinion piece, Dan, your University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate father would have understood the City Paper’s position, and that your foray onto the Op-Ed page of the Post is a clear signal that your battle is not being won.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: