Football Star Hires Security After Wedding Threats

For the biggest day of his life, Fiesta Bowl star Ian Johnson isn't taking any chances.

Since receiving more than two dozen verbal and written personal threats, the Boise State running back, who is African-American, has retained several off-duty police officers and security guards to watch over his wedding tomorrow to a white cheerleader.

Johnson, who scored the winning points in the Fiesta Bowl, made headlines when he proposed to girlfriend Chrissy Popadics on national television.

Soon after the Jan. 1 proposal, he started receiving hateful phone calls and letters mailed to the school's football office from people angry at his interracial relationship.

"There are a lot of ignorant people out there, and to this day, some people still haven't advanced in their beliefs," Boise State football spokesman Todd Miles told "They were hateful letters, with racist language, most of them from people out of state."

Records of the phone calls and letters were passed on to the Boise Police Department, which is conducting an investigation. A spokesman for the police department wouldn't describe the investigation but did verify that several officers would provide security at the wedding.

Miles said that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has allowed the university to pay for some off-duty police officers and security guards to be present at the wedding ceremony, where 400 guests are expected, and at the reception, at which 150 guests are expected.

But Johnson, who was unavailable for comment, isn't letting the threats get him down. "Ian is a happy-go-lucky guy, and he's looking forward to tomorrow," said Miles. "He's not letting it rain on his parade."

The racist threats are unusual in Boise, which recorded only five race-related hate crimes in 2005. Although Idaho has a small African-American population, in 1959 it was one of the first states to repeal laws that prohibited interracial marriages. And Idaho was one of five states with the largest proportion of white and multiple-race couples in the country.

Although the number of interracial marriages doubled from 1990 to 2000, such couples are often targeted for harassment.

"When it is a couple that consists of an African-American male and a white female, they are the ones that elicit the most passionate reactions from others, and that has to do with the historical realities of black people in this country," said Kellina Craig-Henderson, a professor of psychology at Howard University and the author of "Black Men in Interracial Relationships."

"Things are getting better and the number of interracial relationships between blacks and whites has steadily increased, but there are still plenty of people who will not accept that fact," she said.

Meanwhile, the prospective bride and groom are going about the tasks attendant to their big day. Popadics was busy getting her nails done and taking care of other prewedding chores. Her cousin and maid of honor, Courtney, said that she wasn't even aware of the threats, explaining that the couple has been busy preparing for today's rehearsal. By tradition, they will remain apart tonight.