Saturday, February 05, 2011

Of course he can - he's rich!

(Since this is the first Sunday in February, I should probably have some kind of Superbowl post. Of course, if I watched football, that would be a lot easier to do; but at least I can write about something football-related, so maybe this qualifies as Superbowl-adjacent.)

You know, it's funny. A lot of people complain about the independent weeklies, those free papers that pay for themselves using advertising - I've been told that they're nothing more than a "free rag you pull out of a box on a street corner... that is, if you can find it among the brochures for escort services."

(Honest. We'll get to the football in a second. Relax!)

Personally, I've got nothing against these smaller independents. I've found that their style tends to be more readable than a lot of the "mainstream media," with a distinctly local flavor, and their reporters have been known to beat the more conventional news sources to a story. (For example, the place where I pulled that last quote is a fine example.)

Plus, they're free. My favorite price.

Although I lived near Washington, DC many years ago, I never saw the Washington City Paper. Dan Snyder, on the other hand, the owner of the Washington Redskins, apparently did see this story by Dave McKenna in this particular paper, and seeing it apparently made him unhappy. So unhappy that he's suing them.

(See? Football. Happy now?)

Now, Danny had some time on his hands. He always does, this time of year; the Redskins haven't made it to the Superbowl since he bought them in 1999. (Huh... I wonder if that might have something to do with why DC residents hate the man...)

Anyway, first he sent a couple of boys around to threaten the owners of the paper ; you know, to point out "Hey, nice little place you got here. Be a shame if something happened to it, wouldn't it?"

Of course, by "boys," I mean Daniel P. Donovan, general counsel for the Washington Redskins. And by "threaten," I mean... well, no, that's exactly what I mean. To wit:
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.
The paper put the entire three page letter on line - you know, in the spirit of full disclosure. And reading it, you can see that it's a good thing that this Danny got a nice cushy job sweeping "drunk and disorderly" charges under his plush shag carpeting; I don't think he was at the top of his class. (If nothing else, failing "Constitutional Law" has to drag that grade point average down a bit, doesn't it?)

OK, Dan, let's go over it one more time.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
See that part I bolded there, Danny? Read it again.

So Atalaya Capital Management (the owners of the Washington City Paper) put their lawyer on it, who probably fired off his reply over lunch; it wasn't like he had to try hard. And again, the letter mysteriously made it on line ("No, really. I don't know how that keeps happening..."). It's a straightforward smackdown. (And only 3 pages long, too - you should check it out.)
We encourage you to consult with First Amendment counsel in regard to your claims and would be happy to discuss the matter with such counsel at any time. I expect that, with the advice of counsel and upon further consideration, you will agree that continued debate over the relevant law serves little productive purpose.
Or in other words, "yo, counselor! Suck on 'dis!"

But Danny and Danny didn't take the hint. And they filed suit.

Now, the majority of this 11-page filing can be boiled down into "Waah! He said mean things about me!" Much of the press, on the other hand, has gone toward one claim, itself almost libelous, that the cover art, of a defaced picture of Snyder, was "anti-Semitic."

Well, as the paper explained it:
For the record: The story didn't mention Snyder's religion at all. And the illustration is meant to resemble the type of scribbling that teenagers everywhere have been using to deface photos for years. The image of Snyder doesn't look like an "anti-Semitic caricature"—it looks like a devil.

But we at City Paper take accusations of anti-Semitism seriously—in part because many of us are Jewish, including staffers who edited the story and designed the cover.
(If anyone was really interested, I could explain why the traditional representation of the Devil was intended to look Jewish, but let's move on.)

But, since libel requires specific allegations, Danny's "lawyers" (let's assume they were lawyers, although the evidence is a little shaky at this point) dug up four. Of course, the internet is a wonderful place to do research on stuff like this, and the Paper's lawyers have found all their work done for them. To wit:

a. that "Dan Snyder... got caught forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications"

Well, let's check this AP story from Friday, April 27, 2001, entitled Verizon fined $3.1 million for telephone slamming:
Verizon and its former marketing agency, at the time owned by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, were fined $3.1 million for illegally switching Florida customers' long distance telephone service without authorization.

The state Attorney General's Office said representatives of Bethesda, Md.-based Snyder Communications forged thousands of customer signatures to switch them to service provided by GTE, which is now Verizon.

Investigators also found GTE employees forged signatures and "used deceptive tactics" to get customers to switch service.
OK, that's one. What's next?

b. that Mr. Snyder caused Agent Orange to be used to destroy trees "protected by the National Park Service" on "federally protected lands," a matter about which previously published reports have been publicly corrected

Wow. See, that would be cool, if it bore any relation to what the story actually said. Which was:
That’s the Dan Snyder who... made a great view of the Potomac River for himself by going all Agent Orange on federally protected lands
I mean, you understand the word "metaphor," right? It's not that anybody used Agent Orange, it's that somebody cut down a bunch of trees. You know, like in this this 2006 Washington Post story:
A high-ranking National Park Service official improperly helped Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder broker a deal to cut down more than 130 trees on a hillside between his Potomac estate and the C&O Canal, according to a report by the Interior Department inspector general's office.
OK, that's two.

c. that Mr. Snyder bragged that his wealth came from diabetes and cancer victims

Oooh... harsh. Of course, the writer was referring to his own story, where he was reporting on this video from 2000.
Snyder replies that at Snyder Communications, they had "weekly meetings" to come up with a list of what groups to market goods and services to.

"We'd make jokes, each niche would be a $5 million niche, and we'd go after each one," Snyder says.

Greenfield asks for examples of his targeting decisions.

"We were looking at trend lines," Snyder says. "We saw that the aging baby boomer demographics were coming on strong. That meant there's going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc. How do we capture those market segments?"

The first 20 times or so that I saw the clip, I had pretty much the same reaction: "Uhhhh....Did Dan Snyder just brag to a crowd of college kids that he looks at folks on the business end of diabetes and cancer as a target market? As members of '$5 million niche?'"

And then I'd rewind the clip. And, dang if Snyder wouldn't say it all over again!

So let me type it again: "That meant there's going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc." Snyder says. "How do we capture those market segments?"

Repeat after me: Yucky! I mean, sure, big business is a cold realm. But it takes a special kind of guy to boast about exploiting the downtrodden in front of a roomful of young strangers and TV cameras.
Aa-a-a-and next!

d. that Snyder was "tossed off" the Six Flags' board of directors

Ouch. That one had to hurt. I mean, Danny even has a witness that the whole departure was amicable and both sides were happy. So where does the truth lie?

How about in the actual filing from Six Flags at the time?
In addition, Mr. Shapiro shall serve as an initial director and shall be entitled to appoint the remaining director; provided , however , that such remaining director shall not be Daniel M. Snyder without the consent of the Majority Backstop Purchasers.
Yeah, that's exactly what they'd say during an amicable breakup, huh?

Really, what all this proves is that, by all appearances, Danny Snyder would seem to be a world-class douche, and hates it when people point this out.

Of course, this is only my opinion. I could be wrong. I freely admit that, and would submit this final paragraph as evidence of my fair-minded treatment of this situation into any court filing.

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