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!”