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Dan Snyder’s Law Suit: Never Mind

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, has decided to drop his lawsuit against Washington City Paper officially ending his attack on the 1st amendment of the constitution.

If you need background on his actions that became a cause célèbre for lovers of free expression in America, you can find my finely honed criticisms over this matter here, here and here.

I don’t think this legal action was going to work out well for him. First, free speech rights regarding public figures are pretty sacrosanct in American courts (see Falwell vs Flynt). Plus, DC has a statute that allows for prosecution for law suits aimed to intimidate freedom of speech. The Snyder legal team’s approach to this was not to question the merits of such a case were it to have been enforced, but to claim the DC City Council had no right to pass such a law.

Of all the things Snyder complained about regarding City Paper’s scathing synopsis of all the goofy things the Redskins owner has done through the years- he had pretty much dropped his outrage for all elements of the article except one; the impression the piece gave that Snyder himself, was personally involved in “slamming,” the practice of changing people’s phone services without their knowledge, back when he ran Snyder Communications many, many years ago. An out-of-court settlement was reached at the time in which Snyder admitted no wrongdoing. City Paper conceded they may have left the impression Snyder himself was involved in slamming practices but insisted they did so without malice.

Wisely, a word not ordinarily associated with Dan Snyder, he backed down. The pre-season-opener announcement cleared the decks for a new era of good feelings as he seemed to sense the Redskins may actually be a decent team this season and further distractions on the frivolous law suit-front would be counter-productive.

Bravo, Snyder. This is almost as big a victory for free speech rights as the 28-14 Redskin win over the Giants was a statement about how good and how loved his team could be if he just stops meddling with the front office and causing self-inflicted public relations wounds.

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
.

Has Daniel Snyder Lost His Mind?

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying very hard not to write about Daniel Snyder’s lawsuit against the City Paper. I feel like Sylvester with Tweety Bird; a tasty little morsel flying all around my head and I’m trying to be good, I am….but I.. Just. Can’t. Help. Myself.

Have you read the actual lawsuit? It’s amazing. Here’s what the Redskins owner alleges has occurred to him because a guy most of us have never heard of wrote a critical article back in November in a publication most of us don’t read….until now, of course.

Listed under the “First Cause of Action” on Page 9 of the lawsuit:

…Mr. Snyder has suffered general and special damages in an amount of not less than One Million Dollars ($1,000,000), including damage to Mr. Snyder’s reputation and standing in the community, shame, mortification, hurt feelings, embarrassment, humiliation, damage to peace of mind, emotional distress and injury in his occupation.

Oh My God. Someone hurt the feelings of the owner of the Washington Redskins. For this- he literally wants to “stop the presses.” At least it’s certainly implied in the lawyer-letter that came to City Paper’s ownership group shortly after the publication of the article in November from Redskins General Counsel, David Donovan:

Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against your paper’s concerted attempt at character assassination. We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper.

Really, now? A commentary about a public figure merits a threat to put a news publication out of business by what some may perceive as a frivolous law suit? I say frivolous, because no matter what could possibly have been said about Mr. Snyder- have you ever read the decision in Jerry Falwell vs Larry Flynt? Trust me on this one. City Paper did not come anywhere NEAR what Larry Flynt wrote about Jerry Falwell in Hustler magazine some 25 years ago. Flynt won.

And the law suit demands that this be decided by a jury trial. As this is being litigated in New York City, can you just imagine the scenario of a bunch of New York Giants fans sitting in judgment about the alleged business practices of the owner of the arch-rival Washington Redskins?

I don’t want to go out on a limb here, but I do believe someone is being just a little thin-skinned.

But as long as we’re talking law suits…what about a class action from 3.5 million Washington Redskins fans against the club’s owner, seeking monetary damages for deceptive representation of said NFL team as a “professional franchise?”

Jury trial…right here in ‘ol DC.