Source: Sportico

The NFL wants to keep quiet Daniel Snyder's legal fight with limited partners, who Snyder accuses of extortion.AP/MICHAEL AINSWORTH

Daniel Snyder, the besieged majority owner of the Washington Football Team, claimed in a new court filing that limited partner Dwight Schar has waged “an extortion campaign” against him. Snyder insisted that several media stories have contained damaging and unverified claims.

Snyder’s filing—a sworn, first-person declaration filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Maryland—is designed to advance his legal defense against a lawsuit waged by Schar and the team’s two other limited partners, Robert Rothman and Frederick Smith. In his 5-page filing, Snyder leveled harsh accusations that stem from media portrayals of an alleged 2009 incident involving Snyder and a female former employee. The incident led to Snyder being accused of sexual misconduct and the team reaching a $1.6 million out-of-court settlement with his accuser.

As Sportico detailed on Tuesday, the Washington Post and New York Times have offered different depictions of the incident and its aftermath. Both sides of the lawsuit have complained to the presiding judge, Peter Messitte, about selective leaks to journalists and the shaping of confidential information.

“I have been the subject,” Snyder bluntly declared, “of an extortion campaign by plaintiff Dwight Schar”. Snyder argued this supposed effort has been “based on [Schar’s] threat of leaking information about the meritless allegations for which, despite his knowledge that no evidence of wrongdoing was found after an investigation by a well-respected law firm, [Schar] nevertheless threatened to reveal to discredit me and embarrass my family.” Snyder explained the settlement not as an admission of wrongdoing but rather a reflection of the “the insurance carrier decid[ing] to settle”.

Snyder further insisted that the “extortion campaign” began in June, when the three limited partners petitioned the league to resolve a contractual dispute. The dispute centers on whether the limited partners can sell their equity as a group or whether Snyder can stop them. The NFL, as Sportico reported, has intervened in the Maryland litigation. The league maintains the lawsuit should be tabled or kept sealed until NFL officials have completed an internal (and confidential) dispute resolution process.

In his filing, Snyder also maintained that “on July 5, 2020, the Washington Post began publishing articles concerning the Washington Football Team that characterized the Team and me personally in a negative manner.” He also asserted that Schar has resorted to verbal intimidation.

“Schar,” Snyder proclaimed, “threatened my personal attorney in a conversation on July 25, telling him that the threat he has been seeking to hold over me would come out if I didn’t ‘just sell the team’; that I ‘won’t have a choice’; that the story ‘will kill Dan’; and that I ‘will suffer a horrible existence’.”

Meanwhile, Snyder professed innocence with regard to accusations that he’s been leaking self-serving assertions to the New York Times. “Neither my wife nor I,” Snyder insisted, “have leaked any information about the negotiations or this litigation to the press, either directly or indirectly. I also do not believe that any of my advisors . . . have leaked any such information to the press.”

In a related court filing on Tuesday, Snyder attorney Rachel McGuckian argued it wouldn’t make strategic sense for Snyder to be a leaker. She noted that he not only didn’t initiate the Maryland litigation but he “sought the protection of a confidential arbitration proceeding—not a federal court.”

As this litigation could continue to embarrass the team and its owners, expect the NFL to continue to push for the case to be sealed. The league understandably doesn’t want internal battles played out in public court filings and in national media stories with sensational headlines.

It appears that Judge Messitte has grown tired of how the parties are litigating the case. “To the extent,” the judge wrote in a Dec. 23 order obtained by Sportico, “that any filings contain—if absolutely necessary—negative accusations, they should not be filed publicly in unredacted form unless approved by the court.”

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