Washington NFL team owner Daniel Snyder sued an India-based online media company on Friday for defamation, alleging the news site accepted money to publish damaging, unfounded rumors about him.
Snyder’s lawsuit against the company, Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide, includes excerpts of now-deleted stories accusing the billionaire of involvement in sex trafficking and linking him to the deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the New York Times reported.
Filed in California federal court and in New Delhi, the lawsuit further claims the website published the rumors from social media platforms despite knowing they were false.
“While Mr. Snyder understands that truthful criticism about the Washington Football Team comes with the territory of owning the team, malicious criminal allegations cross the line," Snyder's attorney said in a statement. "He intends to hold all of those responsible for this defamation accountable, and will donate any proceeds recovered in the lawsuit to charity."
The filing comes after weeks of intense scrutiny of the Washington NFL team’s operations. A group of 15 female former employees accused executives of sexual harassment and verbal abuse in a damning report from the Washington Post and the team is in the process of rebranding after retiring its “Redskins” nickname and logo under pressure from sponsors.
Snyder is seeking $10 million in damages and an admission as to whether the site was paid to post the rumors.
A Washington NFL team representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Social media speculation ran rampant ahead of the release of the Washington Post’s report, with users on Twitter, Reddit and other platforms claiming inside knowledge of its details. The Post report did not mention any of the allegations included in Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide’s articles.
MEA Worldwide co-founder Nirnay Chowdhary acknowledged missteps in an interview with the New York Times, but denied claims that someone paid to plant the stories.
Chowdhary said the website plans to investigate how the errors were made.