Weir Not Off the Hook

The New York Times

excerpt from: Triple Axels Secure Title and Confidence


Johnny Weir’s costume at the United States figure skating championships featured white tufts of fox fur on his left shoulder.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press Johnny Weir’s costume at the United States figure skating championships featured white tufts of fox fur on his left shoulder.

Friends of Animals, the international animal rights group based in Connecticut, is not happy with the figure skater Johnny Weir – again. And this time it’s not because he wears fur.

With about two weeks left before the Vancouver Games, Weir switched his long-program costume from one with genuine white fox fur to one with faux fox fur. In a statement Thursday, Weir said that “pressures and threats from a certain animal rights group” had prompted him to make the change.

His agent, Tara Modlin, had said Friends of Animals had sent “some very scary, threatening e-mails” to her, to Weir through his Facebook page and to Weir’s costume designer regarding the fur-accented costume. She said Weir was afraid for his safety at the Olympic Games.

But Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, said Friday that those statements have unfairly characterized the group, a nonprofit organization that has existed since 1957. She said the organization never threatened Weir. It was the white Arctic fox used for Weir’s costume, not Weir, who was victimized here, she said.

“All we did was write him an open letter,” Feral said. “Was it stark, yes? But it was written with care. Was there public outcry? Oh yes, there was. But we didn’t have anything to do with threats of violence. There was a firestorm of reaction. He was hearing from hordes of people.”

Friends of Animals reached out to Weir, his costume designer and his agent only to fax or e-mail the open letter and then to send the news release regarding the open letter.

“There was no other communication,” she said.

When asked Friday to show the threatening e-mail messages that she or Weir had received regarding the fur costume, Modlin said she had deleted them. She also said that neither she nor Weir had contacted Facebook security to notify it of abusive messages Weir had received, nor had they called the police about the threats.

“The e-mails are not pleasant,” Modlin said. “I don’t want Johnny reading unpleasant e-mails. I want him to focus on skating. I hope this makes those people stop.”