Daniel Snyder in January 2020. Daniel Snyder at a January 2020 press conference. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports.)

Over the years, there have been plenty of cases of former Washington NFL franchise owner Daniel Snyder being involved in legal fights. Those have often involved arguments about speech, and frequently defamation claims suggesting that media entities have reported untrue things about Snyder and his businesses.

Sometimes, that reached the level of lawsuits against media outlets, as with separate cases with The Washington City Paper and Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide. In other cases, media outlets’ reporting was cited as part of different Snyder court filings with accusations of leaks. Another case still saw Snyder campaign to NFL owners about “malicious” and “false” reporting from ESPN (both of which would have been defamatory if accurate, but he didn’t sue in that case). And now, while it hasn’t yet reached a court battle, Snyder is reportedly embroiled in a fight over speech in relation to a movie on Donald Trump…one he helped fund, believing it would portray the former U.S. president in a positive light. Here’s more on that from Tatiana Siegel of Variety:

On Monday night, all eyes in Cannes will be on the launch of “The Apprentice,” the high-profile drama that stars Sebastian Stan as a young Donald Trump. The filmmakers and stars haven’t done any press on the ground at Cannes ahead of the film’s world premiere, and few have seen it, with plot details shrouded in mystery.

But one person who has seen it is Dan Snyder, the billionaire former owner of the Washington Commanders who is an investor in “The Apprentice.” And he isn’t happy.

Sources say Snyder, a friend of Trump’s who donated $1.1. million to his inaugural committee and Trump Victory in 2016 and $100,000 to his 2020 presidential campaign, put money into the film via Kinematics because he was under the impression that it was a flattering portrayal of the 45th president. Snyder finally saw a cut of the film in February and was said to be furious. Kinematics’ lawyers were enlisted to fight the release of “The Apprentice,” and the cease-and-desist letters began flying. 

…Sources familiar with the back and forth say Snyder took issue with multiple aspects of the film and weighed in on what should be changed.

For his part, Kinematics’ president Emanuel Nuñez admits there’s been a fight with the filmmakers. But he denied to Siegel that Snyder has been involved, saying “All creative and business decisions involving ‘The Apprentice’ have always been and continue to be solely made by Kinematics. Mark [Rapaport, founder and CEO] and I run our company without the involvement of any other third parties.”

The specifics of the legal wrangling here aren’t yet clear, with these letters largely playing out behind the scenes. There are some suggestions in Siegel’s piece of some of the content that might have been at issue here, including a rape scene that was in earlier cuts of the film. But it’s far from clear how the final film has turned out, especially with no one involved doing press ahead of its Cannes premiere.

The specific situation here doesn’t appear related to Snyder’s 1999-2023 tenure in charge of Washington’s NFL franchise. But it certainly does strike some familiar notes around his various media fights, and his battles to change how he was portrayed publicly.

And while this is about the image of his friend Trump rather than himself, a lot of Snyder’s past playbook on trying to change a narrative seems to be involved here, if these reports are accurate. That was one of many reasons quite a few celebrated Snyder’s exit from the NFL. And it’s interesting to see that some similar controversies are now popping up around films he’s involved with.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.