Jan 29, 2010, 6:00 PM EST
A nasty business, this Olympic figure skating. It’s not for the meek. Just as the controversy over a Russian ice dancing team’s costumes had begun to dissipate, three-time National Figure Skating champion Johnny Weir is fighting his latest battle with animal rights activists. Or he’s surrendered, to be more precise; walking towards PETA’s front lines with his hands up and kicking his fur costume ahead of him. Weir has been under fire from animal lovers for quite some time over his wearing real fur with his costumes, and finally announced today that he would switch to fake fur because “several threats were sent to me about disrupting my performance in the Olympic Games.” But Weir is being less than truthful, says a spokesman for the organization Friends of Animals.
Weir said he would “tweak” the costume he had planned to wear in his long program at the Vancouver Winter Games, replacing the white fox fur with the fake variety.
But he also said it was all under duress. Those kitten-loving bastards.
“I made this decision after several threats were sent to me about disrupting my performance in the Olympic Games and my costume designer, Stephanie Handler, was repeatedly sent messages of hate and disgust,” Weir said in a statement first published by icenetwork.com. “I do not want something as silly as my costume disrupting my second Olympic experience and my chance at a medal, a dream I have had since I was a kid.”
Weir said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had been bugging him about his fur-wearing tendencies since the 2006 Olympics, sending him “nasty hate mail” and “videotapes of animals being skinned.”
In response, Weir said, he would send the group an autographed photo, on which he would draw a chipmunk with X’s for eyes.
Not exactly the Hatfields and the McCoys.
So what was PETA’s response to Weir’s announcement? Please enjoy this lovely flower arrangement! From The PETA Files:
There isn’t anything sillier than an animal wearing another animal’s fur, so we hope that fur is forever gone from Weir’s wardrobe and that the flowers we’ve sent him to say thanks brighten up his dressing room as he prepares to take home the gold.
UPDATE: Just received an email from Anai Rhoads, who is the director of media relations for Friends of Animals.
I want to clear a couple of things up:
1. No one threatened Johnny Weir (apart from the comments to articles online, I’m sure, written by upset individuals). Just finished an interview with the NYT and was told that Weir’s publicist had no proof of a threat whatsoever. Never called the police, nothing. This is something that needs to be addressed – an Olympic figure skater is saying he received death threats, yet never called the police?
2. PETA has nothing to do with our letter, press release or campaign. The Associated Press contacted us last night to announce that Weir had decided to respond to our open letter. Weir’s statement is solely applied to Friends of Animals, and no other org.
PETA replied to our victory of getting Weir to not wear fur, by sending Weir flowers. That’s the most involvement that org had with this year’s issue.
I am the one who sent a press release to Stephanie Handler. The release I sent (link below) was processed through PRNewsWire. They have a policy against accepting releases that are threatening, abusive and so on. In addition, Handler herself gave me her fax number to send it to her. Not exactly a “hateful” interaction between us, nor was it unsolicited as Weir’s publicist claims.
Basically, the news broke. Weir saw that there were over 11,000 responses within two hours of USA Today posting the piece on their site – and reacted by lying to divert attention from the issue.
Weir Says He Will Wear Fake Fur at Olympics [New York Times]
Olympic skater goes faux — for now [The PETA Files]
Weir says he’ll wear faux, not fox fur, after receiving ‘threats.’ [Friends of Animals]
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