Redskins' Snyder drops lawsuit against D.C. newspaper

J.C. Derrick | Libel | Feature | September 12, 2011

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has dropped his $2 million libel and defamation lawsuit against Washington City Paper, which would have tested the district's new anti-SLAPP legislation.

"We prefer to focus on the coming football season and the business at hand," according to a team statement. Snyder announced his decision Saturday, on the eve of his team's season-opening matchup with the New York Giants.

Snyder filed the lawsuit in February, three months after the publication of reporter Dave McKenna's "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," a lengthy piece critical of Snyder's actions since he acquired the team in 1999.

In a New York Times article published last week, Snyder admitted that he has never read the article over which the suit was filed. When the Times reporter asked Snyder how he could sue over a story he had not read, the Redskins owner responded, "because I heard all the details. But the entire piece? I’m not going to read that."

Last week, The Washington Post ran an editorial that called Snyder's battle a "losing argument," pointing out that anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent this type of costly legal action. SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) suits are typically filed in an effort to bury opponents in expensive litigation.

City Paper attorneys filed a motion to have the case thrown out in June, citing a law in place to stop SLAPP suits. The motion froze Snyder's lawsuit in discovery until the judge could rule on the matter.

Snyder's suit claimed that the publication employed "lies, half-truths, innuendos and anti-Semitic imagery to smear, malign, defame and slander a prominent member of the community in order to generate reader interest and maintain its circulation."

Snyder was seeking $2 million in general damages and a public apology. Washington City Paper declined, choosing to stand by McKenna and the newspaper's content.

The publication raised more than $34,000 in private donations to help offset the cost of its defense.

"City Paper is a small news organization with limited resources, and defending ourselves against this lawsuit has cost massive amounts of time and money, well beyond the $34,308.91 that readers have contributed to our legal defense fund," City Paper said in a statement on its website. "Despite those costs, we are proud that we never wavered or allowed ourselves to be bullied, ultimately leading Snyder to dismiss his case."