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Dan Snyder vs. WCP: A rundown of the lawsuit and how Tanya Snyder's name entered the fray

February 3, 2011 - 02:07 AM
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Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder filed a lawsuit Wednesday night in New York State Supreme Court against Washington City Paper and its parent companies, Atalaya Capital Management and Creative Loafing. In the lawsuit, seen below, Snyder's attorneys accused City Paper of "[employing] lies, half-truths, innuendo, and anti-Semitic imagery to smear, malign, defame, and slander" the 45-year-old owner.

Daniel Snyder v. Atalaya Capital Management

At the center of the lawsuit is this article, "The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Daniel Snyder," which was written by longtime City Paper columnist Dave McKenna, and is purported to be an encyclopedic account of Snyder's various alleged misdeeds, both as owner of the Redskins and while involved in several other non-football-related business ventures. Snyder is asking for $2 million in total damages from City Paper and Atalaya for libel and damage to his reputation.

The Redskins announced the suit in an e-mail sent out to members of the media late Wednesday night. The lawsuit was filed in New York City because the headquarters of Atalaya are located on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

If you didn't feel like skimming the whole mass of documents above, here's how it breaks down:

-The complaint itself takes up the first 13 pages. That's followed by:

-Exhibit A, the cover of the November 19-25, 2010 issue of City Paper, which features a photograph of Snyder with an evil-looking mustache, goatee, unibrow and devil horns drawn on. Snyder's attorneys refer to the cover art in their complaint as "precisely the type of imagery used historically, including in Nazi Germany, to dehumanize and vilify the Jewish people and associate them with a litany of libels over the last 2,000 years." (2 pages)

-Exhibit B, the facing page of the City Paper article, which featured a different photograph of Snyder, this time with his eyes crossed out and a graphic with the story's headline placed over Snyder's face. (2 pages)

Exhibit C, a printed copy of the City Paper article from the paper's website, which is followed by a thread of 167 comments from readers, almost unanimously negative toward Snyder and his ownership of the Washington Redskins. (43 pages)

Exhibit D, a letter threatening legal action sent from Redskins General Counsel David Donovan to Ivan Q. Zinn, Daniel M. Levinson, and Michael E. Bogdan, partners at Atalaya Capital Management. The letter is dated November 24, 2010, less than a week after the City Paper article hit newsstands. In the letter, Donovan called many of the incidents described by McKenna in his piece "blatantly false, misleading, or simply irrelevant." (5 pages)

"If there is any 'Hate Machine' in operation in Washington," Donovan's letter reads in part, "it is operated from the desk of your columnist at the City Paper." That is a reference to this blog post by McKenna from May of last year.

Donovan's letter also suggested that the large number of articles McKenna has written about Snyder stemmed from "the writer's desire to patronize his paper's new masters." Atalaya bought Creative Loafing in August of 2009. Since November 22, 2010, McKenna has written 15 posts for the City Paper's "City Desk" blog that have mentioned Snyder in some way, shape, or form.

"Presumably," Donovan stated, "Either [McKenna] (or you) might contemplate some benefit to your fund by diminishing Mr. Snyder's (or Red Zone Capital's) business acumen or his reputation in the business and investment community, which has been a major focus of your columnist's and your paper's campaign against Mr. Snyder for many months." Red Zone Capital is the name of the private equity fund through which Snyder has invested in various businesses, including the Six Flags amusement park corporation and the Johnny Rockets restaurant franchise.

Snyder's wife, Tanya, is also mentioned in the suit, as the plaintiff's lawyers allege that McKenna "[demeaned Mrs. Snyder's] prominent and public role as the National Football League's national spokeswoman for breast cancer awareness as being that of a mere 'salesperson' for the 'transformation' of her husband's public image."

In the article in question, McKenna wrote "Last week [Tanya Snyder] went on local TV to tell an interviewer that he is now surrounded by 'better people,' and that he’s 'grown and he’s evolved.'"

McKenna is, in fact, referring to an interview with Mrs. Snyder conducted by Alex Parker and Julie Parker on TBD TV's "SportsTalk" program, which originally aired on November 9, 2010, nine days before the City Paper issue featuring McKenna's article was published. That interview has been posted in full below:

Donovan's concluding paragraph reads, in part: "Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against [City Paper's] concerted attempt at character assassination. We presume that defending ... litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as [Atalaya]. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper."

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  1. mensa58 mensa58

    Local Reader

    Feb 03, 2011 - 09:24:03 AM

    All this tells me is that Dan Snyder is acting like a spoiiled kid who thinks his money can buy whatever he wants. Dan, there's a small thing here called "freedom of the press."

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    • jpg144 jpg144

      John Gramlich

      Feb 03, 2011 - 04:03:50 PM

      It's not libel if the subject of the article in question is a public figure, which Dan Snyder clearly is. Media Law 101. However, City Paper might not want to pay for the long and costly legal fight, which may be Snyder's tactic here -- get them to settle, act like he 'won.'

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    • Real Name Real Name

      Real Name

      Feb 03, 2011 - 11:33:22 AM

      Libel isn't protected though.

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