The FBI is investigating several threatening and racist letters that have been sent in the past two years to black NFL players, including one prominent Miami Dolphins player who received a letter in September.
According to a memo distributed to NFL players last week by the league's security department, and obtained by the Palm Beach Post Wednesday, every piece of the hate mail comes from the same person, and postmarks show the correspondence was sent from Erie, Pa., Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio.
As many as 30 letters have been directed to prominent individuals throughout the United States, including leading black 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.
Major League Baseball also referred a threatening letter directed at one of its players to the FBI, the Post reported Friday.
The letter was received "in the past couple of weeks," Kevin
Hallinan, baseball's senior vice president for security, told the paper.
"These letters contained veiled threats," special agent Robert Hawk of the Cleveland office of the FBI told the Post on Wednesday. "There were overtures of violence."
In a letter obtained 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."
A memo to Dolphins players, received by the newspaper, also stated that "the threats of violence have escalated with each letter." The FBI said recent letters have included threats of being shot or set on fire.
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."
Stu Weinstein, the Dolphins' security investigator, did not name the team's well-known player who had received a letter. But he did tell the Post that the player was alarmed.
During 19 years with the Dolphins, Weinstein 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 newspaper that these letters have been his greatest concern since the heightened security surrounding pro football following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"It was a threatening letter," Weinstein told The Post. "It said, 'African-Americans shouldn't be allowed to play professional sports and shouldn't be allowed to make the money that football players make and entertainers make.' Mostly it was about the danger of racial mixing in our society."
The Dolphins' memo states that the letters and envelopes under analysis are typed and that the sender usually identifies him- or herself as "All Whites [or Caucasians], Angry white women."
NFL security officials would not comment, but league spokesman Greg Aiello told The Post: "I think the memo speaks for itself."
On Wednesday, several Dolphins players also voiced concern.
"It's scary because you never know what you're opening now," safety Arturo Freeman
Said defensive tackle Larry Chester
The league itself has asked those who receive such letters to handle them with care, keep others from touching them, place them in a larger envelope and turn the correspondence in to their own team's security investigators.
"I think these people are hoping that with the notoriety of NFL players, their message will get out," safety Shawn Wooden
"It's sad to see that in this day and age. But if it's one person or a couple of people doing this, it's something you have to live with. These people are looking for a response. And we're big enough to say that this type of letter doesn't deserve a response."