Dan Snyder, the Napoleon of NFL executives, may have reached his Waterloo. The buffoonish owner of the Washington Redskins has done some stupid things in the past, but nothing compares to this latest stunt.
The tale begins last November when Dave McKenna, a veteran writer of the little known Washington City Paper, wrote a lengthy takedown of Snyder entitled, The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide To Dan Snyder. The piece was an A-Z list detailing the astonishing incompetence of the Snyder regime. The lowlights included stories of Snyder suing decade-long season ticket holders because they were slow on their payments during the recession, as well as a long list of coaching disasters. If you though this billionaire would ignore a snarky column from an alternate-weekly paper then you haven't been following the saga of Snyder and the Skins. Snyder wanted revenge, so his lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Washington City Paper with the stipulation that the litigation would continue until McKenna was fired. The suit is based on a picture of Snyder that was published next to the article. Snyder alleges the photo is "anti-Semitic" because he is pictured with devil horns over his head. With a final touch of class, Snyder's lawyers implied that because Snyder has more money then the entire publication, he could bankrupt the City Paper if he wanted to.
I'm not going to criticize Snyder for his performance as owner of the Redskins. McKenna's article did that better than anybody else could. The terrible trades, egregious signings and baffling coaching decisions speak for themselves.
It's the stupidity of the lawsuit that brings this story to a whole new level. By suing McKenna, Snyder took an article that was probably read by a few thousand people and made it a worldwide sensation. His bet that this lawsuit would go unnoticed and get the columnist fired has blown up in his face. McKenna is now a folk hero for hard-working journalists across the country who work for small papers, while Snyder is the Augustus Gloop of the sports world, the petulant child (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) who throws a hissy fit when things don't go his way.
So where are Snyder's public relations people in all of this? You know, the people whose job it is to keep the boss from stepping in it? Redskins PR honcho Tony Wylie, a respected figure in NFL circles, has become Snyder's fall guy. After the lawsuit went worldwide, Snyder appeared on the radio and said, "All I did was support Tony Wylie. He wanted to do it."
Of course there's no way this is true. Snyder is asking us to believe that one of his employees was so incensed about a small-time article about the boss that he told him he should sue. This is just Snyder's way though. He is a terrific businessman but the Skins' owners has the thinnest skin in sports. Let's hope that he learns from the public backlash this time. With every stupid lawsuit, every self-serving act, he puts another blemish on the great history of the Washington Redskins. He should know by now that the best way to get the Dave McKennas of the world to lay off is to stop destroying your team.
Follow Thomas Alter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MrTalter