January 29, 2010, 2:30 pm
Weir Says He Will Wear Fake Fur at Olympics
By JULIET MACUR
Yielding to pressure from animal rights groups, Johnny Weir, the three-time national figure skating champion, said he would tweak the costume he had planned to wear in his long program at the Olympics, replacing the outfit’s white fox fur with white faux fur.
“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, 25, had worn the costume at nationals, where he bubbled over with excitement over wearing a fur-accented costume. The white tufts of fox fur sat on his left shoulder, looking like a long powder puff as he portrayed a fallen angel in his program. He had said that he did not care one bit what animal rights groups thought of his decision to wear the fur.
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.
“Don’t attack me for a personal choice,” he said at nationals. “There are soldiers dying all around the world. Choose your battles, don’t pick on mine.”
But after nationals, Weir said, he and his costume designer received mail that caused them to rethink the decision to wear fur at the Olympic Games. At the 2006 Olympics Weir finished fourth.
Tara Modlin, Weir’s agent, said that the animal rights group Friends of Animals had sent “some very scary, threatening e-mails.”
“He was afraid for his personal safety at the Olympics and was scared that it would affect his performance there,” Modlin said, adding that PETA had been “very classy” in the way it communicated with Weir about the situation.
Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, told The Associated Press that the group had not threatened Weir.
The group had sent an open letter to Weir, criticizing his “love-affair with fur,” according to a post on the organization’s Web site. “The beautiful fox was likely anally electrocuted, or may have had its head bashed in, only to serve as decoration for someone’s performance,” the letter said.
Regarding Weir’s decision to alter his costume, Feral told The A.P: “If he’s made the smart decision I hoped he’d make, to shun the skins of animals and not decorate his costumes with them, that’s a very good thing and I’m happy to hear it.”