Washington Football Owner Dan Snyder Offends Everybody

I’m often asked who’s the best owner in professional sports. The answer is easy: it’s the 112,000 owners of the Green Bay Packers, the only fan-owned, not-for-profit team in the United States.


I’m also often asked who’s the worst owner in the wide world of sports. This has been a tougher nut to crack: do you go with people who bankroll the right-wing fringe, like the Orlando Magic’s Dick DeVos? Or do you choose the “Slumlord Billionaire,” Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling, who had to pay out the largest housing discrimination settlement in the history of the United States?


After today, I now I have an answer: it is without question the owner of Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder. Snyder already has a twelve-year track record of utter incompetence, with a dash of contempt for anyone in his line of vision. It was team legend John Riggins who once said that Snyder had a “dark heart.” He said it for good reason. This was, after all, a man whose club has taken grandmothers to court and bankrupted them for not being able to afford their season tickets and who has starred in a host of other incidents that boggle the mind in their small-mindedness. Snyder has done this while lording over a franchise with the most racist name in sports, a name that harkens back to team founder George Preston Marshall’s segregationist and proudly racist politics.


But today, Snyder really cemented his position as the worst of the worst. News has broken that the billionaire owner is trying to get longtime DC City Paper reporter Dave McKenna fired. (Team officials deny they are seeking McKenna’s ouster.) 


McKenna’s crime was writing an article last November called "Cranky Redskins Fans Guide to Dan Snyder." Now we know that Snyder has threatened to bankrupt City Paper with litigation unless some undisclosed action is taken. The letter from David Donovan, the Redskins General Counsel, addressed to the small-time Hedge Fund that owns City Paper, reads,


“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.”


Especially disturbing to Snyder was a picture of picture of the Redskins owner in City Paper with a mustache, beard, and horns drawn on his face. This to Donovan, and by extension Snyder, stains City Paper with anti-Semitism. Donovan writes, “How would you react if you were vilified by an anti-Semitic caricature of you?” Then the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper wrote,


“Public figures, including an owner of an NFL team, are fair game for criticism and even derision. However 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.”


City Paper. in a tart response titled On the Matter of Dan Snyder’s Horns, shot back, “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. So let us know, Mr. Snyder, when you want to fight the real anti-Semites.”


Please let me take this a step further. As a Jew, I find the idea that accusations of anti-Semitism and the memory of the Holocaust and genocide are being casually used by Dan Snyder’s people because his feelings were hurt to be reptilian and beneath contempt. It trivializes every last person—whether Jewish, Roma, Gay, Catholic, trade unionist or Red—who died at the hands of Hiter’s Germany.


Also, lest we forget, Dan Snyder owns a team whose name and logo are a celebration of the genocide of our Native American brothers and sisters. Every Sunday the Redskins take the field, their namesakes' memory is slandered and suffering celebrated. If Dan Snyder was really an opponent of genocide, he’d change the name of his team. Until that happens, this incident reveals him to be worse than an insensitive dullard. It marks him as a hypocrite.


So to sum up, a billionaire gets zinged by a local rag with a modest readership and proceeds to trivialize the Holocaust and blackmail the paper with financial Armageddon. All in a day’s work for Dan Snyder. Go Packers. If you win, it will be a terrific statement that we don’t need the Dan Snyders of the world to enjoy professional sports. Sports without owners. Now there is a thought for Super Bowl Sunday.


[Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]


11 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Didn't Synder promise Mubarak...

an apartment in DC if things get too crazy?
(I thought I heard that, anyway.)

Worst owner in the world? Well that would have been easy if Limbaugh had got the Rams.
Definitely agree, DZ, though, the municipality of Green Bay is the best owner. Every time should be municipality owned. Say it again. Say it loud. Say it everyday. Every team should be municipally owned.
First we take our teams back. Then we take our factories back.
OMG Fight The Power!

Just for the record...

Dave, I know Green Bay may have a preferable ownership situation, but taking them over the Steelers? Seriously? I know that you've been to Pittsburgh a few times. Where, exactly, do you rate our city compared to Green Bay? How many times have you sat in your house watching Rob Ruck's "Kings on the Hill" with a tissue next to your chair? What about the revitalization of Braddock? Or our non-profits and community activism? Is Green Bay on our level when it comes to those things? I'm currently at a bar full of people that haven't eaten cheese in nearly 2 weeks! We sacrifice cheese, Dave, because we love our city! Truthfully, I'm a bit biased and totally joking. Enjoy your Super Bowl weekend.

I don't know, Dave

This may be one of the rare times when I don't fully agree with you, but it would be nice if we could see the drawing in question to form a judgment for ourselves. If it were, for argument's sake, reminiscent of an ugly caricature of a Jew (but I don't know that it is) I wouldn't find the comments of Snyder's people out of line. Maybe a little overwrought, but not necessarily out of line. (I just viewed the exhibit on Nazi Propaganda at the Holocaust Museum yesterday, so such images are fresh in my mind, though I don't remember seeing horns.)


Fred, see those red letters in the article above? They're links, one of which leads to the very benign devil depiction published by the City Paper. There is nothing benign, however, about a billionaire blackmailing a journalistic enterprise that's critical of him. Anti-democratic; incidious; un-American: all words and phrases that jump to mind, but not benign.

Another great take Dave.

on Boston radio

... I only caught a few moments and didn't even realize it was him but Snyder was interviewed on one of the local sports statoins in Boston (the Sports Hub, 98.5). And one of the hosts, Michael Felger, is quite liberal and I'm pretty sure he's Jewish. Why the hell would they have on a lowlife like Snyder. I've been rooting against the Redskins for years because of his ownership.

Great Article Zirin

Once again Dave brings the noise. Great Article. Can't wait to see you in Madison!

Keep Up The Good Work, Dan

As a lifelong Eagles fan, the worst thing I can see happening is the Redskins and Cowboys replacing those clowns they have as owners. The NFC East is tough enough without the Redskins suddenly getting their act together. Go Dan!

Hilarious Rob

Yeah, Imagine if "The Boys" ever got decent ownership, what a tragedy that would be for the NFC East and the NFL. If JJ ever got into financial trouble (and didn't have the state to bail him out) we should organize a "Save Jerry" fundraiser, for the sake of the Eagles and Giants.


(I hope this isn't a double post- my comment disappeared when I clicked to submit)
Let me guess- Snyder is a big contributor to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, right?
With his attribution of anti-Semitism to an illustration that even a 5 year old could see was meant to depict the devil, Rabbi Cooper places himself in the company of Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz, two other prominent Jews who have made it their mission to trivialize anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
As I see it, most of the baseless and knee-jerk charges of anti-Semitism are motivated by a desire to defend, at all costs, Israel and it's many sins against the Palestinian people. The irony is that by falsely labeling so many on the left, Jews like Foxman and Dershowitz are slandering the very people most likely to defend them against real anti-Semites, like those useful idiots (to Israel, that is) the Christian Zionists.

rotten jews brian roberts, and you

brian roberts and you need to put the star of david on your heads as you shoot out your jew diatribe to kill off the White race for Jew World Order

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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