- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Washington Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis is considering lessening his now-famous accessibility to fans in the wake of several hundred vulgar and threatening e-mails sent to him and general manager George McPhee.
In an open letter to Caps fans posted yesterday on the team's Web site, www.washingtoncaps .com, Leonsis said he received a torrent of e-mails in a 10-day flurry that started with the team failing to sign free agents Jeremy Roenick and Pierre Turgeon and ended with the trade for Pittsburgh superstar Jaromir Jagr. More than 2,000 e-mails have arrived since the Jagr trade became public late Wednesday. Not all that correspondence, however, was complementary.
"Since day one, I have tried to be open and accessible to all of our fans," Leonsis wrote. "I encourage debate and your most vociferous concerns; however, we must draw the line somewhere. Between [McPhee] and myself, we have received more than 100 threatening, disrespectful and completely vulgar e-mails. In this case, we have taken the high road and turned the other cheek, but if this activity continues, I will have to reconsider my accessibility to our fan base."
Later yesterday, Leonsis confirmed he may lower his profile and access. He forwarded to The Washington Times several unprintable examples of the comments he received, and some included threats of bodily harm. One even made a veiled threat to kidnap his two children; the e-mail was turned over to team security.
"We shall see," he said. "I will [cut back] if it keeps up."
Two years ago, Leonsis ushered in a bold new era of owner-fan contact in professional sports when he purchased the Caps and encouraged anyone to write to him at washingtoncaps@aol.com to discuss the team. His accessibility stands in stark contrast to insular executives like the Cooke family, former Washington Redskins owners.
Leonsis, who often responds within hours and sometimes minutes, has used the letters as a means of fan feedback and implemented dozens of operational changes suggested in them. A few fans who have engaged in particularly cogent debates with Leonsis have been invited to his suite at MCI Center.
Since then, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce and other prominent sports executives also have welcomed fan e-mails and conducted regular Internet chat sessions.
Leonsis, due to go on vacation starting today, said he is seeking to simply revel in the excitement created by the Jagr trade and has not responded to any of the threatening or graphic e-mails.
"I am chilling for now," he said.
Staff writer Dave Fay contributed to this article.

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