Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder charged that a disgruntled former employee helped wage a campaign against him that resulted in defamatory articles, according to a filing in Federal District Court Monday.
Snyder asserted that Mary-Ellen Blair, who worked for the team from 2013 to '17 as an executive assistant in the front office, took money to help spread damaging information about him. The filing also stated that Blair "further directly offered or alluded to the availability of bribes to current employees of the Team" with hopes of eliciting further false statements.
On Friday, Snyder had filed a defamation case against Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide, a company based in India, over what it said would be included about him in an upcoming Washington Post story. The Post article detailed allegations of sexual harassment by five former Washington Football Team employees. The Post did not report that Snyder was involved in any way other than as the team owner.
But before the story was released, the meaww.com news site reported that Snyder was allegedly involved in sex trafficking, tying him to Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who died in jail after being charged with sex trafficking underage girls.
Snyder is seeking $10 million in damages from the media company. To bolster his case, Snyder is targeting Blair, who was terminated after a demotion and left the football organization on bad terms, according to the filing. Also, Snyder asked for access to documents that Blair has -- including confidential team records. The filing also said Blair started reaching out to current and past team employees in the late spring for damaging information against Snyder.
According to the filing, Blair acted at the direction of -- and with financial support from -- the same individuals who "hired and directed" MEAWW to publish their defamatory articles about Snyder. Nirnay Chowdharry, a founder of MEAWW, denied to the New York Times that his company has received money in exchange for writing stories.
In a statement, one of Snyder's attorneys, Joe Tacopina, said, "Mr. Snyder will not stand by idly as these criminals, for their own malicious reasons, seek to sully his good name through outrageous lies. To that end, we are aggressively pursuing Mary Ellen Blair, a disgruntled former employee who is clearly in the pocket of another and complicit in this scheme to defame Mr. Snyder, in order to ensure that the full weight of the law comes down heavily on all those responsible for these heinous acts."
When asked for comment, Blair's attorney, Lisa Banks, said: "Today's legal filing by Dan Snyder seeking documents from former employee Mary Ellen Blair is filled with numerous falsehoods, which are clearly intended to humiliate and intimidate her. Importantly, Ms. Blair never communicated with or provided information to the MEA WorldWide website or anyone related to Mr. Snyder's Indian lawsuit. This filing is an obvious and inappropriate attempt to silence Ms. Blair and others who may wish to communicate with legitimate news organizations about the culture of sexism, harassment and abuse that has existed at the highest levels of the Washington Football team for decades. Bullying and baselessly disparaging former employees who provide truthful information about their experience with Dan Snyder and his organization will do nothing to repair the reputation he claims in this filing to care so deeply about."
The filing stated that Blair used the confidential personal contact information that she "admittedly stole" to seek negative information from employees or other team affiliates about Snyder.
The filing says Blair told a Washington employee that the Washington Post article would "not be good for Dan," alluding that it would discuss him using drugs. It also alleged that she told a longtime personal employee of Snyder's that several of the team's minority shareholders did not want to do business with him any longer. The filing states those conversations with Blair were recorded.
Multiple reports have stated that minority owners Fred Smith, Bob Rothman and Dwight Schar want to sell their shares. They combine to own approximately 40 percent of the franchise.
Snyder also states in the filing that Blair has a "financial benefactor" who has helped with her rent. She lives in what the filing described as a luxury apartment building owned by Comstock. Schar's daughter, Tracy, is on the board of directors at Comstock and serves as the senior vice president for marketing at Comstock Holding Companies.
According to the New York Times, Comstock's board includes two other people who worked for Red Zone Capital, which is co-owned by Snyder and Dwight Schar.
In 2010, Snyder sued the Washington City Paper after an article detailed what it considered his many failings as an owner. The suit was eventually dropped.