Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor and Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell were among NFL players who received some of the 30 or so threatening letters sent to prominent, successful black people over the last two years.
The FBI has begun an investigation into the hate mail sent to black NFL players. Those letters, which include threats of castration and death, urge the men to "stop establishing relations with white females," according to special agent Robert Hawk of the Cleveland office of the FBI.
On Monday night, Mitchell spoke with ESPN Radio's Todd Wright about the nature of the letters he received.
"There are a lot of ignorant people, you get fan mail that is threatening," he said. "It happened. It's true. You can't live in fear. You can't change people.
"Racism exists. So it really doesn't surprise me. A lot of women are attracted to the athlete. You get a lot of people who don't like that. It's jealousy and envy of that."
Wright asked Mitchell if his letter was specifically about black men dating white women.
"Yes. That is the case," Mitchell said. "Mine was strictly about Caucasian women. I heard about all this before the season (he first received the letters), so 3 or 4 months ago. I usually don't check my fan mail, but I had 3 or 4 boxes full of it, so I had someone check into it."
In addition to Taylor and Mitchell, several members of the New York Giants organization recently received racist and threatening letters, and forwarded the hate mail to the NFL's security office.
Taylor's wife, Katina, the sister of Taylor's teammate Zach Thomas, is white, as is Taylor's mother. Taylor's father is black.
Two NFL sources saw the letter sent to Taylor in late September and told the newspaper Thursday that Taylor is the only Dolphins player to receive one, according to Friday's Miami Herald.
Also, The Palm Beach Post reported that Major League Baseball has informed the FBI that one of its players received a threatening letter.
While several other NFL players reportedly have received threats, only Taylor and Mitchell have been named by sources.
It was not clear whether the letters received by the Giants were related to those being investigated by the FBI.
Among those in the Giants organization who received offensive letters were coach Jim Fassel, co-owner Wellington Mara, executive vice president John Mara and tight end Jeremy Shockey -- all of whom are white.
"I received one and my father received one. So did some of the coaches," John Mara told The New York Times. "Most of the letters were received by white people. The letter was foul and obscene. I didn't finish reading mine."
A memo sent Nov. 18 to all NFL teams by the league's security
department said all the threatening letters came from the same
person and were postmarked Cleveland; Youngstown, Ohio; and Erie,
A Giants employee said some of the letters sent to the team had
a New York return address, the Times reported Friday.
Kevin Hallinan, baseball's senior vice president for security, told the Post that the letter to one of the baseball players was received in the past couple of weeks.
"We have had one letter similar to what the NFL was talking about,"
Hallinan told the Post. "We've been working with the FBI."
Hallinan did not name the player or team involved. But he did indicate that the letter to the baseball player was similar to those received by NFL players. The letter, Hallinan told the Post, was sent to the ballpark, not the player's home.
Back in Miami, Taylor told the Herald: "I have no comment on it. I have nothing to say about it whatsoever. It has nothing to do with being a player. It's society."
Contacted in Pittsburgh Thursday by the Post, Taylor's mother, Georgia, said, "There are going to be people that have a problem with our family structures. I'm not surprised by anything in today's society."
Taylor's agent, Gary Wichard, told the Post that he wasn't aware of his client getting such a letter. "I spoke to Jason today and we didn't discuss any letters," Wichard told the Florida newspaper Thursday. "I don't know about hate mail. I do know Jason gets a lot of love mail."
Stu Weinstein, the Dolphins' security investigator, would not confirm it was Taylor who received the letter, but did tell the newspaper that the player was alarmed.
During 19 years with the Dolphins, Weinstein says he has witnessed everything from "death threats to extortion to women writing letters to claim that players have fathered children with them," he told the Post. But he told the Herald that these letters have been his greatest concern since the heightened security surrounding pro football following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An NFL source told the Herald that Taylor has not asked for additional security from the NFL or the team. Hawk said Thursday that the FBI has not connected the letters with any acts of "violence or any connection to violent activity."
"When you get something like that you have got to take it seriously," Dolphins President Eddie Jones told the Herald. "Obviously, it's something we're concerned about."
Running back Ricky Williams said he did not receive a letter but he isn't surprised by such threats.
"Most of us don't take it that seriously," Williams told reporters. "It's something normal. Things like that have been around forever."
The letters from Ohio and Pennsylvania have been directed to prominent blacks throughout the United States, including leading businessmen, politicians and entertainers in addition to NFL players, an FBI source told ESPN. Players from as many as six NFL teams have received the three-to-four-paragraph letters.
In a letter obtained Thursday from the FBI by ESPN, the writer decried interracial relationships between black men and white women, but did allow for those involving Arab or Hispanic men. "At least their skin color is closer to whites," the letter said. "It is RACISM when black men don't want their own black women."
"We will attack the black man with any white girl to castrate and kill him," the letter said. "We will use detectives and police to find you."
It was signed, "Angry Caucasian women."
In Columbus, Ohio, a police report said the mother of suspended Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett received a racially charged death threat addressed to her son.
Michelle Clarett received the letter, which had no return address, at her home on Oct. 2. The typed message was from "OSU cheerleaders" and said that "black men should stay away from white women." It included other racial remarks and ended with a message that the writer will "kill and bomb the place."
"We do not have any suspects," Hawk told the Palm Beach newspaper. "But we are currently conducting lab analysis to find the source. If we find this person we will refer him for prosecution, because obviously what has been done is illegal."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.