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Wiesenthal Center Out-of-Bounds on Snyder

Lodges ludicrous charge over apt image of NFL owner

Marc Tracy
February 03, 2011
The allegedly offending cover image.(Washington City Paper)
The allegedly offending cover image.(Washington City Paper)

Take it from me, a diehard Washington Redskins fan: Daniel Snyder is a horrible owner. As a fellow Jewish kid from the Maryland suburbs, I sympathize with his desire to make brilliant personnel moves, conjure the Glory Years, and resuscitate one of the great professional football franchises. But the scoreboard doesn’t lie: In the 12 years he’s owned our beloved team, the Skins have had three winning seasons and won two playoff games. And this pattern of failure is attributable primarily to Snyder’s control-freakishness, meddling, and stupid hires (he has a particular weakness for washed-up future Hall of Famers and I.Q.-less executives). On top of that, you could be nice by saying he has image problems: Overcharging fans of what is, in the end, the second-most valuable NFL franchise (what can I say, we’re really good fans); engaging in sketchy business practices at the Six Flags amusement park business; and at one point selling peanuts from a bankrupt airline at FedEx Field.

It was all laid out in “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Daniel Snyder,” an inventive and brilliant polemic published in a November Washington City Paper and written by the massively underrated (until recently, anyway) D.C. sportswriter Dave McKenna. Yesterday, Snyder threatened to sue the District’s main alternative newspaper and requested McKenna’s ouster; the suit was filed last night (in New York—Giants territory!). So in case you needed further confirmation that Snyder is despicable, well, yesterday he obliged you, trying to put a small alternative newspaper that said not nice, true things about him out of business.

Accompanying the article was a picture of Snyder with a devil’s horns, goatee, fu manchu moustache, and bushy unibrow. Actually, the Satanic accoutrements are ostentatiously scribbled on, as though a “cranky Redskins fan,” in the spur of the moment, had sought to deface the image of the man who has ruined his life. Which is why it is particularly idiotic that, also yesterday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded that WCP apologize for the image, which, it accused, is “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.”

So, to be clear: WCP at most implicitly trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes—a breathtakingly dumb allegation, but that is the Center’s allegation; the Center, by contrast, explicitly—not allegedly, but indisputably—associated a small alternative newspaper with “the genocidal Nazi regime.” Nice.

I wonder what Simon Wiesenthal, an iconoclastic hero who hunted actual Nazis, would make of that? I’m betting he would recognize that there is a risk in crying wolf on anti-Semitism—that the next time an actual anti-Semite steps onto the stage (and there will always be another actual anti-Semite to step onto the stage), and the Center calls him or her out on it, people will remember that ridiculous time the Center blatantly misinterpreted a drawing and sided with a free speech-hating bully against a fantastic and vibrant newspaper, and they will take it a little less seriously.

Which is why I am running the devil-image in solidarity with Washington City Paper.

Well, it’s 80 percent why.

The other 20 percent why is that Dan Snyder is kind of the devil.

Super Bowl XLV is a few days away. The first Super Bowl I remember was Super Bowl XXVI. The Redskins won that one—because that’s what the Redskins used to do, win Super Bowls. Instead of picking fights with small alternative newspapers and a gadfly sportswriter, maybe Snyder should be devoting more of his time to figuring out how to get back in the winning-Super-Bowls business. I think he’ll find he’ll be killing two birds with one stone: When you win, you don’t really care what anybody says about you.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.