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SEEKING YOUR HELP
Who is Behind Threat Letters?

04/25/07

Silhouette of cheerleader

The grievance is unique…and very specific. For the past two-and-a-half years, someone claiming to be “fed up” about how college cheerleaders and female athletes are being exploited on television has sent a series of threatening letters to TV networks and collegiate athletic departments around the country.

And along with their threatening language, some of the letters have contained a powdery white substance that our lab experts say is a potentially harmful insecticide.

Now, our special agents and U.S. postal inspectors are seeking your help in finding out who is behind these missives.

The sender specifically claims that networks exploit women by giving air time to football and basketball cheerleaders and dance squads clad in long sleeves, jackets, and sweaters. According to the writer, Ohio State cheerleaders have gotten more TV time than any other Division 1A squad for the past six years because they wear long-sleeved outfits. “If they wore sleeveless outfits, they would not get ANY TV time. So we are fed up with this constant exploitation.”

The sender, who promises more threatening letters unless TV networks and affiliates change the way they cover events, also writes that televised women’s basketball and tennis events are intentionally marred by coverage that cuts away at key moments, such as during foul shots or serves.

Letters have been sent to national networks and their local affiliates, as well as to individuals in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and throughout the Midwest. Individuals associated with college athletic departments in Ohio, Michigan, and Arizona also received letters.

The first batch of letters arrived in September 2004, postmarked in Portland. More letters began arriving last November and continued through February with postmarks primarily from Seattle but also from Chicago. No injuries have been reported as a result of the letters.

Our Seattle and Portland field offices released excerpts of two letters hoping the public might be able to identify the author:

September 2004 letter: "We are fed up with networks exploiting women in sports coverage. ABC/ESPN exploit collegiate and professional cheer squads in their coverage of football and basketball. They also screw WNBA players and WTA Tennis players. Compare coverage of cheer and dance squads based on their outfits they wear. Compare quality of shots, length of shots and number of shots Pigs park their cameras on us close up, front view, dozens of times each game, yet rarely ever show on TV in this manner, unless squads are wearing sweaters, jackets, under shirts, etc... Watch how they always zoom in on WNBA players shooting free throws then leave at the last second as she starts to shoot, disrupting the flow. Watch on ESPN how they will show women serve, close up, from every angle (side, back) EXCEPT when they zoom in close front, they will leave as she starts to serve, disrupting the flow. We have asked nicely for them to respect us and all women, yet they refuse. They exploit innocent people, so we will too. When they start respecting us, we stop mailing these out."

December 2006 letter: "For the past 6-7 years, ESPN and its nationwide networks have exploited cheer/dance teams all across the country. They do this by parking their TV cameras on these women for their own personal entertainment, but only give TV time to squads that wear long sleeved shirts, jackets, sweaters, etc. The squads that don't wear these types of outfits? They get EXPLOITED. For a long time we have warned ESPN the networks and several schools what would happen if this did not change. For the last 6 years, Ohio State cheerleaders have received more TV time than any other Division 1A cheer squad on ESPN, because they wear long sleeved red/white outfits. If they wore sleeveless outfits, they would not get ANY TV time. So, we are fed up with this constant exploitation."

Do you recognize the style of writing? Do you know or have you come into contact with someone (including on the web) who is upset about these issues—in particular, someone who is either directly or indirectly involved in some aspect of cheerleading or the production or coverage of college athletics on TV?

If so, please contact us your local FBI office, submit a tip electronically on this website, or call our toll-free number (866) 915-8299. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the identification of the author(s).

Resources:
FBI Press Release
FBI Casework: Suspicious Powders 101