Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lawsuit vs. Washington City Paper and McKenna is just who Dan Snyder is; Sporting News column gets cut

Ever since Dan Snyder decided a year ago that he needed to change his image, people who know him have waited for him to crack under the pressure of trying to behave rationally while not thinking he could run an NFL team anywhere but into the ground.

Well, now it has happened.

Snyder spent most of 2010 going through intense image-rehab. He hired Mike Shanahan to run his football team and insisted that Shanahan would have total control: no more having to watch tape in the owner’s office; no more players running to the owner to complain about the coach; no more melting ice cream on the defensive coordinator’s desk if Danny didn’t like the play calling.

Snyder hired a new PR guy who began telling the media that “Mr. Snyder,” would be available to talk if they showed up at some charity function where Danny was writing a check and taking bows. The guy called reporters who had ripped Snyder in the past (including me) to take them to lunch and tell them that there was a New Danny in town. (My lunch never happened; I guess I wasn’t pliant-sounding enough when I got the phone call).

Danny started appearing in TV commercials. Even his wife gave interviews about The New Danny. The PR guy managed to con ESPN—okay not that hard—into doing one of the all-time puff pieces on the owner. Snyder was new and improved was the message.

Maybe not so much.

Wednesday, Snyder and his lawyers proudly announced that they are suing Washington’s ‘City Paper,’ for defamation. They’re asking for $2 million in damages. But that’s not really what Snyder’s after: he’s after Dave McKenna’s job. Period.

Dave McKenna has worked at The City Paper for 25 years. He is one of many reporters here in Washington who has watched Snyder’s behavior with dismay through the years and chronicled it. Last November, McKenna wrote a lengthy piece that was more a very thorough research paper than a newspaper story, giving chapter and verse on Snyder’s transgressions as an owner and a human being.

To be honest, reading the piece, there’s nothing shocking in it. Just about everything in it has been previously reported or is well known around Washington. What makes it impressive is the sheer volume of it; the number of times Snyder and his cronies have behaved badly. There was also a cartoon that ran with the story depicting Snyder as the devil.

The story caused little stir. In fact, I hadn’t heard anything about it until this week. When The Post ran a story on Tuesday about Snyder’s lawsuit, I went and read the story—like a lot of people did.

Which is why I am amazed at the utter stupidity of Snyder and minions. I don’t know what The City paper’s circulation is—it’s always been a well-written paper and I read it when I get the chance—but we’re not talking the Post or The New York Times here. What the Snyderistas have done is shine a spotlight on a story that was almost three months old and never generated much buzz when it came out. After all, ‘Dan Snyder is a Jerk,’ isn’t exactly film-at-11 stuff anymore. It’s like reporting that Bob Knight uses profanity.

Now, Snyder is back to doing his bully routine. This time he’s not suing season ticket holders or banning TV reporters who don’t pay him or charging people $20 to watch practice or taking away all signs coming into the stadium or charging a $4 ‘security surcharge,’ in the wake of 9-11. (All of these things were brought up in the piece).

This time he’s trying to get a guy fired because he thinks he can do it. The letter sent from Snyder’s lawyer to The City Paper makes it clear that’s where they’re going with this. The lawyer, some guy named Donovan (Artie perhaps?) points out how rich Snyder is and says that defending such a lawsuit might cost more money than The City Paper or its parent company has. It doesn’t specifically demand McKenna’s firing but that’s clearly what’s going on here.

After all, there is NO CHANCE for Snyder to win a lawsuit like this one. He’s a public figure and people have the right to criticize him. The only way he can win a lawsuit would be to (A) prove that the facts in the story are wrong and (B) that there was malice involved in reporting whatever is incorrect. Given that almost all of all of McKenna’s piece involves stories already told, even if he DID get something wrong it would be awfully hard to prove he did it with malice.

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.

Of course that won’t happen. Snyder will find a big name quarterback this spring or summer once the new CBA is signed; he’ll kiss a few babies at a charity event’ he’ll do Lunch with Lindsay or grant ESPN an ‘exclusive,’ interview talking about how much he’s learned and The Stadium Formerly Named For Jack Kent Cooke will be packed on opening day next September.

That’s a tribute to the loyalty and optimism of Redskins fans. It is NOT a tribute to the owner. Except he won’t see it that way. He’ll sit in his royal box with his suck-up friends and honestly believe he’s doing all the right things.

This lawsuit is who Dan Snyder is. Even if he someday hoists a Super Bowl trophy and proves David Sanders wrong, Dan Snyder will still be a mean little man. And that’s not a reference to his height.


One other note today: A lot of you have generously written to me about how much you enjoy my column in The Sporting News and I'm grateful for that. Well, my last column appears in the next edition of the magazine.

I got a phone call Tuesday from some bean counter in a suit who told me that now that Sporting News has acquired AOL Fanhouse, the company wants to, "maximize our assets," by using the fulltime columnists working at Fanhouse in the magazine. I love the way these guys talk don't you? I said, "so you're firing me to save money."

"Well, we really appreciate everything you've done for the magazine."

"No you don't," I said. "If you did, you wouldn't be firing me to save money."

My guess is the guy has never once read anything I've written. He's been too busy counting beans and buying suits.

Am I upset? Sure I am. I liked writing the column and I thought I did it well. If someone fired me because my work wasn't any good, it would be disappointing. Being fired by some guy (I swear I can't remember his name and I'm not going to bother looking it up) who thinks Sportscenter is great journalism is a little bit hard to take.

I'll get over it. But I will hold a grudge. If nothing else, I'm good at that.


Anonymous said...

Snyder even makes my beloved Cleveland Browns' ownership look somewhat decent....actually, maybe it's a tie (sighing).

Anonymous said...

It's not stupidity. It's more mental illness.

Brian said...

"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."

Uh, we Oriole fans are living proof that even if you do all these things, the egomaniacal Napoleon in the top job won't give in since he knows he can do no wrong because he pays people to tell him that.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you lost your Sporting News column because of the FanHouse merger. While you're lamenting the loss of that freelance check, maybe you can spare a thought for the DOZENS of full-time FanHouse staffers who will be totally unemployed come March. Your loss is insignificant compared to theirs. Get over yourself.

Mr. X said...


It's sad to watch your old friend, Tony Kornheiser, sit on the sidelines for this latest outrage of DarkHeart. Is his silence really worth whatever Snyder is paying him?

Shawn said...

Bravo, Mr. Feinstein. I hope that someone picks up your work soon.

John from Indiana said...

Got a subscription renewal notice from Sporting News sitting on my dresser. Think I'll be returning it, but not with the check they were expecting....

Tim said...

I read the lawsuit filed, and it made me kinda laugh....can't remember the exact details, but he accused McKenna of making light of, and calling a charade, Snyder's philanthropic efforts for better PR good, nothing more nothing less. But the suit then lists Snyder's philanthropic efforts, including some dollar figures, all trying to show he's a good man. A little contradictory, are we?

Also, Dan Steinberg highlighted that the first letter between Snyder's law firm and the City Paper kept calling Dave McKenna Dan. I'm sure they actually got it right in the lawsuit, but come on Danny boy, do better!

kek said...

I love the backlash (finally!) I read the article when Steinberg first posted it and LOVED every word of it. Now, Danny Boy's opened a can of worms and I really really hope that at least his PR people are reading blogs like this and realizing they have made a HUGE mistake... one all of us Redskins fans are loving!

Great article!

ruffin said...

The PR guy managed to con ESPN—okay not that hard—into doing one of the all-time puff pieces on the owner. Snyder was new and improved was the message.

Except that if you watch the E:60 piece, you learn once and for all that Snyder's not much of a businessman. He bet with house money -- literally, as in a loan on his father's house combined with cash from his father's credit -- and got lucky. Left to his own devices, he struck out a few times.

After what he's done for Six Flags, that Snyder doesn't have the Midas touch isn't a surprise, but if you can't even get your "fluff" pieces right, well, you're surrounding yourself with the wrong people. The City Paper suit and the way it's being handled is just more evidence.

Very good piece. Thank you.

steveM said...

HOLD ON!! If Artie Donovan (of Colts fame) was his attorney, he would probably punch lil' Danny in the mouth for being such a horse's patoot & draining money out of Redskins' fans.

Momus said...

Everyone should read Gene Weingarten's "memo" to Snyder in the Washington Post. I was laughing my ass off, since what he had to say (and how he said it) is far more devestating than anything Mckenna wrote.

omnivore said...

What I love about John, and I am a huge fan, is that he holds grudges and he admits it.

Gunnar said...

The Gene Weingarten column in the Post is great. It also provided a link to the piece by Mr Mckenna, which was a great piece. I am not a huge NFL or Redskins fan, but wow, I had no idea what a shifty character Snyder was.

Anonymous said...

All that you say, and so much more, is true. But we all know how much impact this will have on Little Danny. The more you mock him, the more he - as an insufferably insecure little person completely lacking common sense, much less common decency - will try to strike out at you. And we can continue to be entertained.

What I would really like to see from the City Paper lawyers is a replay of the epic 1974 Cleveland Browns reply letter to a threatening letter from one of the Browns fans, this time addressed to LDS’ lawyer:

"Attached is a complaint we received on January xx, 2011. I think you should be aware some a**hole is signing your name to legal documents they are filing in court."

Anonymous said...

John - you are the best - I loved reading your thoughts.
To bad your buddy Tony K won't say anything about this on his radio show. He rants on and on about what's happening to all the journalists in Egypt but, won't say jack about Snyder and the city paper.

jtf said...

John, I'm very sorry to hear that your TSN column is coming to an end. Sometimes your column was the only reason I bought the magazine. I've read TSN for decades (I'm particlarly fond of the old newspaper format of the late 60s and early 70s...those covers were works of art and the writing was fabulous) but I lost interest for quite awhile until they went to a bi-weekly format and added your column. Your work is consistently first-rate and I'm saddened to hear that TSN has brought an end to a brilliant last page of the magazine. I'll be watching to see where your work appears next.

Anonymous said...

John I know you are a big tennis fan, but did you really have to seek out McEnroe's reaction?

Anonymous said...

Instead of having an "Ask John Segment" on the Tony K show - How about a segment entitled "Ask Tony Why He Hasn't Had Anthing to Say About This" issue?

Fran from Glen Burnie said...


Snyder has accomplished what I considered, up to this point, to be impossible; people in Baltimore are starting to feel sorry for Redskins fans.

I'm a Ravens fan and season ticket holder who works in the District and I can't tell you how many former Redskin fans have told me, in so many words, "that ship has sailed."

But their actions speak louder than their words. They keep coming back for more. Unreal.

Chris H said...


I'm a little curious about your radio appearances. Are you given topics that you'll be discussing ahead of time? Are you advised of topics that the hosts don't want to cover?

I suppose I'm wondering if Tony Kornheiser and/or his producers have politely requested that you not discuss your views of the Snyder lawsuit or Snyder himself when you make appearances on Tony's show. Or perhaps you yourself choose not to bring it up so as not to put your friend and colleague in an uncomfortable position professionally? Just curious as this lawsuit is certainly the hot item of the week across the airwaves.

Jay in D.C. said...

TK not commenting on the story probably has more to do with his personal relationship with McKenna than it does with his business relationship with Snyder. McKenna wrote an article that details some of TK's transgressions, and while I am a loyal "Little" and such content does not surprise me, I cannot deny that it still makes me cringe:

Anonymous said...

This link tells what happend with tony and mckenna - pretty childish on Tony's part.