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FBI probing hate mail to players

By Wire services
Published December 5, 2003

CLEVELAND - The FBI is investigating hate mail sent to black NFL players and other black men during the past year.

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, Pa.

"The memo went out to head coaches who were asked to share the information with security personnel and players," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday. "The memo mentioned only six instances. It's an ongoing FBI investigation."

One of the six was Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor.

"I have no comment on it," said Taylor, whose wife, Katina, is white. "It has nothing to do with being a player. It's society."

The Miami Herald reported that Taylor has neither asked for nor received additional security.

More than just football players were targeted.

Special agent Robert Hawk of the FBI's Cleveland office said more than 30 "racially hateful letters" were sent to "high-profile people in their respective communities - professional athletes, business leaders, civic leaders, community leaders or organizations."

He confirmed that six of the letters were sent to pro athletes.

Hawk said the contents of the letter "complain about the relationships between black men and white females." He also said the letters direct black males to end relationships with white women "or they're going to be castrated, 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.

The letter, with no return address, was delivered at her home Oct. 2. The typed message was from "OSU cheerleaders" and said "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."

Rolle fined $12,500

Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle was fined $12,500 by the NFL for a throat-slash gesture and celebrating an interception against the New York Jets.

He said he plans to appeal both fines.

Rolle was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after catching a ball in the end zone in the first quarter of the Titans' 24-17 loss to the Jets. He waved his right hand twice near his neck, was flagged by the officials and fined $5,000 for the banned throat-slash gesture.

Rolle, who has three interceptions in four games, said he was also fined $7,500, apparently for high-fiving teammate Andre Dyson after intercepting a pass in the end zone.

Rolle previously had been fined $5,000 by the NFL for dancing during the Titans' 30-17 victory over Miami on Nov. 9.

"I'm pushing $20,000 by some people who've never run out of a tunnel before and don't know the emotions that the game is played under," Rolle said. "They're taking the fun away."

The former FSU standout said he expects to lose his appeal of the fine from the game against the Dolphins.

"I hope I win these next two, or I'll give them something to fine me about," he said.

Meantime, on the field, defensive end Jevon Kearse practiced for the first time since spraining his left ankle Nov. 16, while receiver Drew Bennett participated in his first practice since straining a calf muscle on Oct. 26.

Quarterback Steve McNair, who didn't practice last week, took some snaps as he split work with backup Billy Volek. He sat out the last drill with ice on his injured right calf.

BEARS: Brian Urlacher has been described as a throwback player, a middle linebacker who relishes the elements and the emotions that shape a rivalry like the one with the Packers.

Let the thermometer drop and the fans scream - Urlacher can't wait for Sunday's game at remodeled Lambeau Field.

"It's fun playing up there. You know it will be cold and it's always fun to play when it's cold," Urlacher said.

"Not a lot of people like that, but we enjoy it because we're a cold-weather team. The fans hate us and that's really nice. You like going to a hostile environment."

What the Bears (5-7) don't like are their results against the Packers during the last decade. Green Bay has won 17 of the past 19 and, surprisingly, the Bears' two wins during that stretch of futility came at Lambeau Field in 1999 and 2000.

BILLS: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe returned to practice a day after experiencing dizziness from a second hit to the head in consecutive weeks.

He wasn't made available to the media, and his status is unclear for Sunday's game against the Jets.

Backup quarterback Alex Van Pelt said Bledsoe took a majority of the snaps and did not look tentative.

DOLPHINS: Middle linebacker Zach Thomas was added to the injury report with a sore hip, and his status for Sunday's game at New England is questionable.

Thomas, who twisted a hip muscle in practice Wednesday, worked out on a limited basis, coach Dave Wannstedt said.

"I'm doing everything I can to get back on the field," Thomas said. "It may be a gameday decision on whether I play Sunday."

Thomas would likely be replaced by Tommy Hendricks, who has started one game this season.

CFL PACT: The NFL and Canadian Football League extended their working agreement until the end of April.

The current deal was set to expire Dec. 31, when the CFL is scheduled to make the final $500,000 installment on its $3-million loan with the NFL.

The four-month extension means CFL players entering the option year of their contracts can sign with NFL clubs until Feb. 29. NFL teams traditionally have had a nine-week window to sign CFL option-year players, starting from the end of the NFL regular season.

The NFL regular season ends Dec. 28. With the NFL-CFL deal set to expire Dec. 31, that meant eligible players in Canada would have had just three days to work out for NFL teams, let alone negotiate and sign contracts.

In 1997, the two leagues created the CFL-NFL Alliance. The arrangement gave the CFL a cash boost while the NFL received access to CFL players entering their option year.

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]


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