The Ruinous Redskins Owner Now Seeks To Silence Free Speech

It’s hard to fathom the possibility that Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder could manufacture an even lower regard for himself in Washington these days, but he’s managed to do it: yesterday he had lawyers file a lawsuit against the parent company for Washington’s City Paper, whose Dave McKenna published a tour de force tally of Snyder’s high crimes against Washington sports fans last November.

The Redskins’ owner feels defamed and unfairly maligned; at last he can empathize with his fanbase.

All you need to know about the merits of Snyder’s suit — and of his true motivation in bringing it — can be divined from this passage his lawyers wrote recently in a letter to the City Paper’s ownership: “Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation . . . 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.”

Once a bully, always a bully.

I hadn’t read a word of McKenna’s journalism prior to yesterday. McKenna has been with City Paper since 1986, so he’s no johnny-come-lately in town looking to make a name for himself. Instead, he got well-established investigative bona fides and brings them beautifully to bear against Washington’s most inviting target: the Danny. Would that Washington’s largest newspaper had the cajones of City Paper in this regard. But that’s partly why alternative media is so valued today.

In his must-read piece — which is receiving a lot more readings because Snyder has zero public relations instincts — McKenna presents an A-to-Z dictionary of dastardly deeds done by the Danny, which if only half were true would justify lowering the owner into a viper pit. My favorite entry in the McKenna A-to-Z  compendium:

“Vanilla: Flavor of ice cream that Snyder left to thaw in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s office TWICE in one season to let the coach know the owner felt his schemes were simplistic, or vanilla. John Feinstein wrote that Snyder’s second delivery, after a loss to Dallas, consisted of “three giant canisters of melting 31 Flavors ice cream” and a note that said “I do not like vanilla.”‘

(It’s impossible to imagine Ted Leonsis stooping to such histrionics; besides, what chance would there be of ice cream surviving long enough to thaw in Coach Boudreau’s office?)

When I encountered McKenna’s work yesterday there were literally hundreds of passionately supportive reader comments for it. Today when you follow the link to it you encounter this message at the bottom of the page: “Due to very high traffic on February 2nd, comments are being cached on a separate page.”

There’s a cornucopia of incredible crimes chronicled in McKenna’s civic gift to D.C. — Snyder even allowed peanuts older than Sonny Jurgensen, procured from a defunct airline, to be sold to Redskins’ fans at his stadium. You can’t make this stuff up.

Most damning from my vantage — and trust me, it’s not easy to select a worst of the worst with this creep — is his insistence that local media tasked with covering his team purchase the right to cover them. Synder referred to these ethics-deficient reporters as “media partners.” George Michael we know wrote the check. So did many of those who struck you as sycophants of the Skins on TV all these years, City Paper points out, except for those from one outlet — WJLA TV, whose personalities was forced to file remotes from the Redskins’ parking lot at the team’s practice facility.

Checkbook journalism, proudly brought to unprecedented heights in sports by Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins.

I don’t blame Snyder for the ethics of Washington’s big-name media personalities — they’re corrupt in their own right. But like so many other things about his management style, it’s profit first, second and last with this guy, unsightly and unscrupulous business practices be damned. Like suing an impoverished grandmother.

And it bears mentioning: not all local journalists come off looking corrupt by virtue of their proximity to Snyder. One of my favorite members of the local media, our guy down by the glass, Al Koken, deserves huge props for coining the term ‘Dan-Jazeera‘ in characterizing Snyder’s media relations sensibilities.

As sad as this story is there is some good news: the hue and cry from this latest bit of bullying from Snyder is occasioning no small viral backlash. John Feinstein, who famously called for a boycott of Snyder back in 2008, penned a poignant rejoinder this morning:

This isn’t a nuisance suit it’s a bully suit. It is Danny Snyder trying to bully a small paper into firing someone. It is disgusting and it is proof—again—of who Dan Snyder really is. It is also proof that the people around him (again) are dumb or have absolutely no power to talk him out of doing things that are not only beyond mean-spirited but are flat out stupid.

“Snyder is even playing the Jew card on this one. He and minions found a Rabbi at The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles who was willing to call the cartoon anti-semitic. Oh please. A newspaper ran a cartoon depicting Mike Krzyzewski as the devil during last year’s Final Four. Was it in poor taste? Sure. But was it anti-Polish? Of course not. No one is anti-semitic here. They are anti-Dan Snyder. Period.

“A friend of mine, David Sanders—a lifelong Redskins fan—said to me yesterday that he believes the Redskins are 20 years into a 60-year drought. Snyder is only responsible for the last 12 but David’s point is clear: Snyder is 46-years-old and he’s not going to sell this team unless the fans in this town somehow marshal their forces and simply STOP going to games and STOP buying Redskins-gear and scream at the top of their lungs that they’re sick and tired of this little bully and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”

The latter observation is, if you’ll pardon my word choice, the money moment in all this. The Redskins are metaphysically inoculated from success so long as Synder is involved in their operations. How much more of his terror-error reign needs to be endured? And I’d add: he plays no small role in Washington’s sports fans’ new-found passion for seeing the Capitals succeed, if for no other reason than to distract them from the Titantic mess Snyder has made of a once flagship professional sports franchise, one that for generations served as a deep and broad focal point for Washington civic pride.

Dave McKenna may well need a legal defense fund in this matter, and if he does, I’d hope to be the first contributor to it. Meanwhile, Washington babies should be named after him (Dave for the boys, McKenna for the girls).

Hopefully cooler legal heads will prevail, and this nuisance lawsuit will be dropped. Just as importantly, hopefully more in media will be inspired by Dave McKenna’s principled and dogged coverage, and at long last stand up against our city’s biggest, ruinous bully.

This entry was posted in Dan Synder, Dave McKenna, Media, New media, Print, Ted Leonsis, Washington Capitals, Washington City Paper, Washington Post, Washington Redskins, Washington the would-be sports town. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Ruinous Redskins Owner Now Seeks To Silence Free Speech

  1. Colin says:

    I’m not a huge football fan, but that little weasel has made me turn off the Redskins all together. Riffing off what you said about Snyder and the Caps, Ted is a great owner by even normal accounts. But he should take the Danny out to dinner for setting the bar so damn low.

    You don’t feel like Ted is trying to gouge you at every turn and actually wants you to have a good time for the money you spend on his team.

    All is not perfect in Caps land these days, but just look out to Redskins Park to see a truly dysfunctional mess. I feel grateful that in this town, my team may not be the most popular, but it is so much better run.

  2. Geo says:

    If Danny would hire a strong GM and give him full power to hire a coach based on qualifications not on glitzy college or pro resume, and be willing to let the ‘Skins take their lumps and re-build 2-3-4, however many years, I have no doubt the ship could turn around. That model has worked for all sorts of teams around the NFL — even the Chiefs made the playoffs this year after some brutal seasons recently.

    Player-wise, our ‘Skins have become a little like the Wiz were the last few years — spend a lot of money with only lots of losses.

    He’d rather sell out the stadium every season based on false hopes, “best years behind them” coaches (Gibbs/Shanny) or “completely unqualified to be NFL head coaches” (Zorn/Spurrier).

    As for the lawsuit, if he doesn’t realize that columnists, bloggers, forums everywhere say far, far, far worse things about him every single moment of every day, he really has blinders on. :p

  3. Jon says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for weighing in on this. I think it’s important that significant voices from the DC blogosphere (like yours) weigh in on how monstrous this is. I just hope this doesn’t detract from Steinberg’s work over on the Bog. Oh, and go Caps! Death to the neutral zone trap!

  4. chris says:

    After clinging to false hope for far too long I finally officially started boycotting Redskins games 4 years ago. I have been a fan since I was a kid but “The Danny” will never again get a dime of my money.

  5. Bret Haber on WUSA TV had an excellent commentary:


    Well after that, Haber will probably be doing reports from the parking lot. Really hard to argue with anything that’s been said in this post, the Fienstein piece or the City Paper article.

    As someone whose fandom started at the end of the George Allen era, it’s really sad to see what has happened to this team. . And personally I dont really care about how luxurious a stadium / arena is, for me it is about seeing the game. I know some SKins season ticket holders, and one of the sets of tickets is directly under a loudspeaker. It was impossible to talk to anyone you were with during lulls in play because they blasted music and / or promotional information. The few games I’ve been to at Fedex havent been enjoyable experiences. I’d rather go to Byrd or Navy-Marine Corps.

    With the Blackhawks, you can see the positive effects of an ownership change. But as a post I saw on a football blog that compared the Raiders to the Redskins at least Raiders fans have hope for an ownership change soon. Kind of cruel, I know.

    And I’m not wishing for anyone’s life to end.

  7. alank says:

    Interesting article, but the Gabby slight was gratuitous, like the cheap shot of Matt Cooke on Rick Dipietro, notwithstanding the idiots in the Consol Energy Center booth who can’t see any wrong with anything Pittsburgh does ever.

  8. Bucky Katt says:

    I had read Dave McKenna’s “Cranky Guide” back in November when it originally came out. It’s a terrific, well written piece. Having been a Redskins fan for quite a while, it took about 7 years for the Danny to totally alienate me. But he did it. I don’t buy one damn thing from the Redskins. I chuck into the circular file every offer of Redskins tickets (I not sure how I got on the mailing list). I encourage everyone I know to boycott this perpetual loser.

    Any my favorite entry in the guide was “B- Bankrupt Airline Peanuts”. Reselling 1 year old peanut bags from a defunct airline tells you exactly what you need to know about the character of the Danny.

  9. HITTMAN says:

    As a lawyer, I can tell you that it won’t cost City Paper much to defend a lawsuit such as this. Truth is an affirmative defense to a libel suit. So far as I can tell from reading various media sources, none of the things in the article were untrue, correct me if I’m wrong. Plus, the plaintiff always has the burden of proof, meaning that the expenses will mostly be incurred on Snyder’s side. I doubt it would bankrupt City Paper. I would also guess they have insurance to cover this sort of scenario–if not, it’s their stupidity that will bankrupt them, not Snyder.

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  11. @ AlanK: It’s not a Gabby slight, but a jokey reference to Gabby’s self-admitted ice cream obsession as seen in the “24/7” series.

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