By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 9:47 PM
There's no question Redskins owner Dan Snyder had a few problems with a cover story about him in Washington's City Paper in November.
At the moment, in fact, Snyder is fighting mad.
Snyder has objected to the article that detailed some of his controversial actions as team owner and other reports about him in the weekly publication, and has threatened legal action against the newspaper. He also is seeking the dismissal of the article's author, staff writer Dave McKenna.
Snyder took his complaints about the Nov. 19 article to Creative Loafing Inc., the Tampa-based company that owns City Paper and five other "alternative" papers around the country, and to CLI's parent, Atalaya Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund. Atalaya bought CLI for $5 million in a bankruptcy proceeding in August 2009.
In a letter sent to City Paper's owners after the article's publication, Redskins chief operating officer David Donovan alleged that Snyder had been defamed by the publication and that legal action was an option. To date, however, no lawsuit has been filed.
The article, entitled "The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," detailed dozens of Snyder's actions as team owner and businessman. It recounted such episodes as the controversy surrounding the removal of trees on land adjacent to Snyder's home near the Potomac River and his raising of parking and ticket prices at FedEx Field, the Redskins' home.
The article was accompanied by a clearly doctored photo of Snyder with horns and facial hair. It drew hundreds of comments on City Paper's Web site, almost all of them praising McKenna and condemning Snyder.
McKenna has written critically about Snyder's ownership of the team for years, and has broken a number of stories that have painted Snyder in unflattering terms. McKenna has also freelanced music reviews and other stories to The Post's Style section for several years.
He had no comment when contacted Tuesday; he referred calls to Amy Austin, City Paper's publisher.
Austin, in an interview, stood by McKenna's work, calling his Nov. 19 story "very, very solid. . . . If there was something to correct, we would have corrected it." She added, "Dave is a stellar reporter. He provides original and well-reported content for us every week."
Austin said she couldn't comment on Snyder's objections because the team owner hasn't spoken with anyone at her publication. She referred questions to Marty Petty, chief executive of Creative Loafing. Petty did not return calls seeking comment.
Snyder has never sued a media organization for something aired or printed, according to Patty Glaser, one of his lawyers. But Glaser said Tuesday that a lawsuit is being prepared. Defending such a suit can be an expensive proposition for a media organization.
"We have been pushed in this direction, in our view," said Glaser, a well-known litigator based in Los Angeles who represented Conan O'Brien in his negotiations to leave NBC last year. "It's something we tried to avoid. We feel they have published untruths" about Snyder. She declined to describe Snyder's objections or to detail factual errors allegedly published by City Paper.
According to several people with direct knowledge of the situation, Snyder's attorneys contacted The Post last week and asked the newspaper to preserve e-mails between Post sports blogger Dan Steinberg and McKenna.
The attorneys said they intend to explore whether there was any agreement between McKenna and Steinberg to cross-promote McKenna's pieces on Snyder. Steinberg routinely links to sports content across the Web.
McKenna and Steinberg are former neighbors and longtime friends, a fact disclosed by Steinberg when he linked to McKenna's City Paper article on Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog blog in November. At the time, Steinberg called McKenna's article "an encyclopedic takedown of Snyder's decade of Redskins ownership, with just about all the horror stories gathered in one place."
McKenna, in turn, occasionally mentions Steinberg's work in his City Paper columns and blog postings, referring to him as "the Great Dan Steinberg."
Steinberg declined to comment Tuesday, as did The Post.