Redskins owner refiles defamation lawsuit in DC

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder refiled a defamation
lawsuit against the Washington City Paper on Tuesday, marking a
change in strategy by the billionaire businessman.

Snyder initially filed the complaint in New York state court in
February, naming the owner of the alternative weekly newspaper, New
York City-based Atalaya Capital Management, as a defendant.

The new complaint, filed in D.C Superior Court, drops Atalaya
and adds columnist Dave McKenna, the author of a biting Nov. 19
cover story, “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” that
prompted the lawsuit. The $1 million lawsuit also names the
Washington City Paper and its Tampa, Fla.-based publisher, Creative
Loafing Inc.

Editor Michael Schaffer said Tuesday that the City Paper stands
by McKenna and his article.

“We had a good, solid story and we will defend it vigorously,”
Schaffer said.

Snyder’s new complaint tones down the previous version’s
rhetoric about anti-Semitism and McKenna’s supposed lack of respect
for Snyder’s wife to focus on three alleged falsehoods in the
article. Chief among Snyder’s revised complaints is his dispute
with a statement in the third paragraph that Snyder “got caught
forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications,” a
marketing company Snyder owned.

The basis for the statement appears in the 67th paragraph:
Snyder Communications was fined by Florida authorities in 2001 for
having its workers forge people’s signatures to switch their
long-distance service without permission to GTE, a Verizon brand.
Under a settlement announced by the Florida attorney general,
Snyder and Verizon together paid $2.5 million, and Verizon paid
another $600,000.

Snyder’s attorneys said in a conference call with reporters that
the article libeled Snyder by stating that he personally committed
forgery.

“There is a difference between calling somebody a criminal
personally and saying that he owned a company,” said Lanny Davis, a
former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who said he has
been friends with Snyder for 15 years.

Lead attorney Patty Glaser said City Paper Publisher Amy Austin
acknowledged the falsehood in a Feb. 23 open letter to readers.
Regarding the forgery, Austin wrote, “In fact, we have no reason to
believe he personally did any such thing – and our story never says
he did.”

Schaffer, the City Paper editor, said Tuesday that the story
didn’t say Snyder personally committed forgery.

“I don’t think that any reasonable person can imagine that the
CEO of a multimillion-dollar or billion-dollar or enormous public
corporation is engaging in the frontline work of telemarketers,”
Schaffer said. “If you read the entire story, it makes it very
clear.”

The article, accompanied by a photo of Snyder, with a devil’s
horns and mustache drawn onto it, provided an A-to-Z guide of what
the publication described as Snyder’s “many failings.”

Since Snyder bought the Redskins more than a decade ago, he has
turned it into one of the NFL’s most valuable franchises but has
also been a target of fans and sports columnists for the team’s
on-field struggles and free-agent busts as well as his leadership
style.

In a letter published by The Washington Post Tuesday, Snyder
explained that he was refiling the suit because the paper “refused
to issue an apology and retract false and damaging attacks on my
integrity.”

“If it had done so, there would have been no lawsuit,” said
Snyder, who says he would donate any award to the homeless.

Snyder also noted in the letter that his late father worked as a
journalist, that he is “not thin-skinned about personal criticism,”
and considers himself fortunate to be the team’s owner.

“I understand the anger people feel toward me when the Redskins
have a losing season or when we sign a veteran player who does not
meet expectations,” Snyder wrote. “I have been a Redskins fan all
my life, and I get angry, too, including at myself. I am the first
to admit that I’ve made mistakes as an owner. I hope I’ve learned
from them. All I want is for the Redskins to win!”