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Dan Snyder and His Big Bone


Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, is back with his lawsuit against City Paper, now filing in DC instead of New York. He could have done so quietly- but no. The re-filing came with an op-ed piece in the Washington Post explaining why this particular dog can’t let go of this particular bone.

I posted passionately on this when the matter reared its ugly head the first time around. The point I was trying to make is that while Snyder says his father was a journalist and he understands criticism and he’s never filed a defamation suit against anyone before, the fact of the matter is that the effect of his legal action is to cast a long and threatening shadow over anyone who dares to criticize his majesty- or they too may end up fighting a multi-million dollar law suit that would end up bankrupting them.

You may recall the lawyer-letter to City Paper from the Redskins General Counsel that intimated exactly that; say you’re sorry or you’ll spend so much time in court that your sorry little paper and its measly little resources will never cover the court costs and you’ll go out of business.

I know this about the long, threatening shadow because in a very small way, I felt it myself. After my first post on this matter in which I questioned the sanity of the Redskins owner, worried friends e-mailed me or posted stuff on Facebook to the effect of—careful- or you better “lawyer up.” And they weren’t kidding either.

No. No one should be afraid to criticize the rich and powerful and famous. This is one of the reasons we fought a doggoned revolutionary war. So we could say anything we wanted to say about King George III and his ilk and not have to face lawsuits or prison. It’s why the American courts give huge latitude to those who criticize public figures.

There were about 57 different bones that City Paper threw at Daniel Snyder in the column that started all of this last autumn. A veritable catalogue of complaints about the Redskins owner; from his incompetence as an owner to the Redskins suing their own fans when they lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to pay for their season-ticket contracts; the ban on signs at Fed Ex Field critical of Snyder—the stuff we’ve all read about now for so many years.

But there’s only one bone Snyder is suing over according to his op-ed piece in the Post today. The one bone that is worse than all other bones:

I honor vigorous free expression in the media. But even a public figure can sue for defamation when a tabloid paper publishes a harmful assertion of a fact, not an opinion, that it knows to be false or recklessly disregards the truth.

That is exactly what this writer and City Paper did. Among many examples in the November 2010 article, the most egregious was when the article stated: This is “the same Dan Snyder who got caught forging names as a telemarketer for Snyder Communications.” That is a clear factual assertion that I am guilty of forgery, a serious crime that goes directly to the heart of my reputation — as a businessman, marketer and entrepreneur. It is false.

Here’s what happened (or so it’s alleged). His company got nabbed (allegedly) for “slamming” a couple of decades ago; the practice in which you (allegedly) change people’s phone services on them without them knowing it. There was an (alleged) out-of-court settlement in which Snyder Communications admitted nothing but (allegedly) paid unspecified amounts in damages. Did the City Paper actually mean Daniel Snyder himself participated in the practice? Or did they mean the company he ran did? Did the paper show actual malice?

That’s what the courts will sort out. And he wants a jury trial. This is going to be rich.

Now, in an effort to protect myself and calm my friends and family who worry that Daniel Snyder will take me to court someday because I may say something he doesn’t like, I have crafted the following language that I will use at the end of any given article I will forever more, publish about Daniel Snyder:

The previous article was not written with any malicious intent toward Daniel Snyder, hereby known as the “public figure.” I have made no harmful assertions or representations of fact purposely intended to damage the public figure’s reputation beyond those actions he, himself, has taken to injure his own standing in the community. I further assert that it is my full right as an American citizen covered by the protections of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America to criticize, ridicule, satirize or otherwise poke fun at any damn public figure I feel like
.

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