Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 1:19 pm | A Few Clouds 60º


Mark Shields: Dan Snyder Is Washington’s Leading Jerk

Redskins owner files a frivolous lawsuit over a few harsh words written in a weekly newspaper

Years ago, two gifted New York writers and Brooklyn natives, Pete Hamill and the late Jack Newfield, met for the first time and spent the evening getting to know each other over cold drinks.

After several hours, as the story goes, Hamill asked Newfield to write the names of the three worst men of the 20th century on one piece of paper and said he would do the same on a separate piece. The names on each man’s list turned out to be identical: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Walter O’Malley, the owner who moved their beloved Dodgers out of Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

Here in Washington, a city with more than its fair share of jerks, we have Washington Redskins football team owner Dan Snyder — who single-handedly makes O’Malley look like Albert Schweitzer and proves going away that he is the entire Eastern time zone’s (yes, that includes Donald Trump) Leading Jerk.

You want evidence? Here it is. Snyder, a self-made multimillionaire, has owned the Redskins for 12 years, during which they have had three winning seasons, even though their rabidly loyal fans fill every seat for every game and the franchise’s market value is the sport’s second highest, at $1.6 billion.

The Washington City Paper is an alternative weekly newspaper that covers local city life, politics, arts and sports. Last November, City Paper sportswriter Dave McKenna wrote, “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Daniel Snyder,” a thoroughly researched compilation of the owner’s widely recognized record of meddling and incompetence.

Now two months later, Goliath Dan Snyder wants to use his deep pockets to terrorize this journalistic David through an expensive lawsuit — unless some unrevealed action is taken by the City Paper. (Would that be the firing of McKenna, Mr. Snyder?)

Here is a paragraph from the intimidating letter from the Redskins general counsel to the minor-league hedge fund that owns the City Paper: “Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation. 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.” Does the word shakedown ring a bell?

Of course, everybody agrees that it is unjust to abuse the little people, but most of the time the little people are the easiest to abuse. But maybe not this time.

The bullying of Snyder has provoked a spontaneous sense of outrage that continues to grow. Snyder and the Redskins not only look mean but also dumb. As a public figure, Snyder has basically no chance to win a legal suit unless he could prove that both the facts were wrong and that the reporting involved malice.

Because the City Paper piece included a picture of Snyder with devil’s horns and a mustache and beard, his general counsel writes, “How would you react if you were vilified by an anti-Semitic caricature of you?”

In an as yet unsolved mystery, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles seconds the charge, which has been rejected as baseless by a number of prominent journalists who are Jewish, including national sportswriter John Feinstein, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post.

You can easily find for sale online neckties, aprons, T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains and posters featuring devil’s horns, mustache and beard imposed on the image of the president of the United States, who nobody, not even Glenn Beck, has suggested is Jewish.

Indeed, Dan Snyder is Washington’s Leading Jerk.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

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