Have you read Dave McKenna's brilliant "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder" yet? You should. We'll be linking to it every day until Snyder's dumbass libel suit is thrown to the dogs. Today's topics: Dan Snyder — petulant shit, rough talker, lapsed free-speech warrior.
At Redskin Park the fields were in bad shape. There were three guys trying to kill the players with their crappy fields, so I brought in the head of the grounds crew at the stadium to oversee the fieldwork. Shame on me for trying to make the fields perfect.
It's the cranky Redskins owner's guide to his former groundskeeping crew!
The groundskeepers claimed that the comments would hurt their ability to find work. They demanded a retraction and damages. In response, Snyder's legal team stood squarely on the First Amendment. Some choice remarks from their filings (which can be found here and here:
The whole panoply of First Amendment protections clearly apply.... Plaintiffs frame this case as the hard-working loyal groundskeepers against the mean new owner worthy of his moniker "Boy Plunder" in the Sports Illustrated article. But anger over their termination or the fortunes of their beloved team is no substitute for the requisite elements of a libel claim. Those elements prevent riding roughshod over the free speech rights of, yes, even football team owners to speak their minds.
A memo supporting a motion to dismiss was a fierce brief on behalf of hyperbole and exaggeration and the "rough talk of sports team owners," not to mention the First Amendment protections given to "subjective opinion" and "expressions of opinion":
While certainly unpleasant to have such views... aired in a national publication, such criticism hardly impugns their integrity or goes beyond those negative performance evaluations which courts have routinely concluded do not constitute defamation, as a matter of law. ... A reasonable reader, particularly a reader of Sports Illustrated familiar with the rough talk of sports team owners, could only understand the remarks, read in context, to be commenting on the quality of the fields without suggesting intentional malfeasance of any kind by the groundskeepers.
The groundskeepers' lawsuit was dismissed in February 2001, and rough-talkin' owners went on with their rough talk, enjoying the Constitutional rights extended to everyone except for people who work for mean alt-weeklies.
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