Redskins owner Dan Snyder's face-off with City Paper gets uglier

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011

The war between Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Washington City Paper just got a little hotter.

Snyder filed suit late Wednesday against the weekly newspaper and its parent company, Atalaya Capital Management, in New York state court, seeking $2 million in general damages plus unspecified punitive damages and court costs.

Snyder alleges in the suit that City Paper libeled and defamed him in a series of articles dating to 2009.

City Paper, whose articles about Snyder included an unflattering Nov. 19 cover story, released a letter from Snyder's attorneys to Atalaya that suggested the company would be in for an expensive fight if it didn't accede to Snyder's objections.

"Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation," said the Nov. 24 letter, which was written by David Donovan, the Redskins' chief operating officer and general counsel, and posted on City Paper's Web site Wednesday afternoon. "We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper."

Before the suit was filed, Snyder spokesman Tony Wyllie said that any damages won would be contributed to a fund for the homeless.

In an interview Wednesday, City Paper Publisher Amy Austin once again stood by the Nov. 19 article, titled "The Cranky Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," and defended its author, staff writer Dave McKenna. "We don't believe there's anything wrong with what we published. The facts are correct."

In her statement, Austin said the newspaper "emphatically" rejects the idea of removing McKenna from reporting on Snyder. People close to City Paper told The Post on Tuesday that Snyder had sought McKenna's dismissal. Patty Glaser, who is handling the litigation for Snyder, said Wednesday that he is not seeking McKenna's removal.

Snyder's public relations representatives also released a statement from the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles condemning the cover image City Paper used with the article: a photograph of Snyder doctored with scribbled-on horns and facial hair.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the center, which is named for the famed Nazi hunter, said it is "inappropriate and unacceptable when a symbol like this - associated with virulent anti-Semitism going back to the Middle Ages, deployed by the genocidal Nazi regime, by Soviet propagandists and even in 2011 by those who still seek to demonize Jews today - is used on the front cover of a publication in our Nation's Capital against a member of the Jewish community."

Snyder's representatives said they solicited the statement from Cooper on Wednesday.

Austin denied any anti-Semitic intent, saying the illustration was meant to suggest a childlike defacing of a Snyder photo - something an angry fan might do.

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