'Everybody bought it': Lies the Redskins like

Snyder, dreaming big. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Mike Wise's reconstruction of how Redskins owner Dan Snyder began his pursuit of Mike Shanahan, now the team's coach, is remarkable for its deeply sourced reportage. It paints a picture of one of Snyder's lowest points, in late September 2009, after the Detroit Lions beat the Skins 19-14

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Snyder, emboldened by a few snorts, hopped on his private plane, modestly known as Redskins One, and high-tailed it to Denver. Things went well until ESPN's Matt Mosley reported he'd gotten some emails from people who'd claimed to see the plane and the Washington Post's Jason Reid reported the flight had shown up on "sites that track flight plans."

Wise reports the purported deceptions that followed:

The Redskins put out a story saying the plane was on loan to a private company, and that Snyder was not on it. Local media in Denver and Washington, including The Washington Post, and national media outlets bought the story — and the rumors quickly died down.

“Everybody bought it,” one of the participants said. “I still remember [Sports Illustrated’s] Peter King calling Vinny on his cellphone, telling Vinny he knows we’re in Denver. Vinny says, ‘Peter, we’re not in Denver. We’re at Redskins Park right now. Go look in the parking lot. All our cars are there.’ And I hear Peter on the other end say, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t think you guys would be so [expletive] obvious.’ And he hung up.”

Saying "the rumors quickly died down" is a nice way of saying "people believed a bald-faced lie." Untruths -- "All our cars are there" is possibly true, but denying Snyder was on the plane is nothing but a lie -- are an interesting strategy, especially coming from a company headed by a man who so loathes them that he sued Washington City Paper based on what he considered the paper's "absolute disregard for fact-checking and truth-telling." (Download a PDF of Snyder's original complaint.)

Snyder, who once argued successfully that a lawsuit against him should be dismissed because his comments that Redskins groundskeepers were "trying to kill" the players "can not be understood in its literal, factual sense," claimed on Saturday that he gave up his lawsuit against the alt-weekly because, he said in a press release, its publisher had "admitted that certain assertions contained in the article that are the subject of the lawsuit were, in fact, unintended by the defendants to be read literally as true." (Read the article that caused all this mess.)

The same dissasociative behavior seems to be in play here, if Wise's account is correct. You cannot print what Snyder and the Redskins consider to be lies (and for what it's worth, City Paper has not had to correct anything about the article in question, which Snyder, who also this weekend revealed he had not read, maintained all along was his goal) without enduring an expensive lawsuit. But it's OK for the team to lie to the press when something as important as the selection of a coach is at stake.

"We're not commenting. Nothing," says Tony Wyllie, the Redskins' spokesperson, when I call him to ask about this apparent contradiction.

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