The Dark Side of a Boycott: One Man’s Experience

His name is Antony Ananins, known to many as Tony New Mexico, a frequent poster on various Liverpool and soccer related message boards (including the World Soccer Daily boards) and the founder of a Facebook group called “Putting Steven Cohen Straight”. Thanks to Tony’s efforts and the efforts of many others, people have been able to express their disagreement with Steven Cohen’s much publicized comments concerning the events surrounding the Hillsborough tragedy, comments that led to the LFCNY’s sponsorship boycott. As most of you know the boycott has cost Cohen and World Soccer Daily numerous sponsors and helped bring attention to not only his most recent statements, but the various lies and distasteful comments Cohen has made over the past few years. What is now starting to come to light is the dark side of involving oneself in a boycott campaign against a man willing to use intimidation and fans who are willing to go even further.

Tony became involved in the events surrounding Steven Cohen on June 19th, 2008 when he formed the aforementioned Facebook group. The stated goal was to make people aware of the lies and hateful comments being made by Cohen on his radio show concerning Hillsborough and the Liverpool Football club. On April 13th, 2009 the stakes changed when Steven Cohen made the following remarks on his show:

“People showing up without ticket, hell bent in getting into somewhere where they shouldn’t be going because they don’t have tickets, is the root cause of [the Hillsborough Disaster].”

“I’m yet to read anybody write in this weekend’s Sunday papers in England, where they’re all doing big commemorations about the 96, and why we should never forget and how it’s changed the game, nobody discusses the 6-8,000 who showed up without tickets and my argument has always been, if those people don’t show up, this never happens.”

“[Hillsborough] is a stadium that week-in week-out, Sheffield Wednesday used without incident.”

These statements by Cohen were the catalyst for LFCNY to start their boycott campaign and this only helped to grow Tony’s Facebook group and thus bring him to the forefront of the campaign whether he wanted to be or not. “During this campaign, my involvement has been to ask the members of my group to send emails to Cohen sponsors and not to get involved in any form of threats or abusive behavior that would tarnish the memory of the 96.” It’s important to reiterate that Tony made it very clear on the group’s page, as did others, that personal attacks against Cohen, hate speech or threats were not an acceptable form of getting your voice heard. A message echoed by the LFCNY.

Tony’s involvement inevitably drew the attention of Steven Cohen and on the May 28th, 2009 edition of World Soccer Daily, the beginning of what Tony feels are intimidation tactics against him began. As co-host Kenny Hassan brags about giving away a Vespa scooter he says, “…whilst Tony New Mexico stays at the Hampton inn in Las Vegas, we know where to find you” Steven Cohen then chips in “Yes indeed, we do know where to find you.” It would not end there.

July 17th, 2009. As Cohen does a piece with a sponsor, he gives out Tony’s full name and the town in which he lives. “Antony Ananins of Tyrone, New Mexico”

Finally yesterday, August 19th, Tony received an email from Cohen that included a line wishing his wife Bev a happy birthday. A seemingly mundane statement, but Tony felt otherwise.

These three incidents proved to Tony that Cohen was attempting to intimidate him by making it clear that he (Cohen) had personal information about not only Tony, but his family. Statements against an individuals involved in a emotional campaign are one thing, but when one’s family members become involved, people begin to react differently. It’s the type of behavior that warrants installing security cameras or other measures.

In addition to these incidents with Cohen, Tony has dealt with a more disturbing situation as a result of his effors. He has received various death threats via e-mail over the past three months, including one just this week. Sent from an individual identifying himself as Frank Mai (dehumanvacuum@.com), the e-mail stated simply “Give up the boycott or pay the price”. This email and the email from Cohen mentioning Tony’s wife were the last straw and he decided to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Tony called the FBI field office in Albuquerque, New Mexico and spoke with Assistant Special Agent Debora Burns. After a conversation, she passed Tony over to a regional resident agent in Las Cruces, NM. Tony was informed by the agent that there was no crime being committed by giving out someones personal information, as most of his personal details are classed as public domain. However due to the death threats and the fact that Tony is involved in a boycott campaign against Cohen, that there was enough to warrant some investigation. Tony was given a case number (FBI Case #09-796)by the agent and asked to inform the FBI of any further developments. Tony is not alone in dealing with abuse and death threats as there at least two other individuals involved in the campaign who have received death threats and personal abuse and are perusing the matter with the authorities as well.

In speaking with Tony for this article he told me, “I want the public to be aware of the tactics of intimidation and bullying that Cohen is trying to use against those who exercise the American civil right of being able to boycott and protest peacefully.” When I asked him how these events effected his involvement in the campaign, “Have these events dampened my involvement in this campaign? Absolutely not.”