City Desk

Local Woman No Longer in Steelers Country, Receives Ransom Call for Stolen Banners

Cleveland Park isn't a neighborhood smacking of huge displays of sports fandom. But Libby Kavoulakis, 45, is a lifelong, season-ticket-holding Steelers fan. And besides, she says, "we're world champions." So she put up two banners, one on her garage and another, larger one across the second story of her house on Reno Road at Warren Street. The garage banner was stolen in February. On Saturday morning, as she was about to leave for her office, she noticed the 8-foot "You're in Steelers Country" banner was gone, too.

Last night, someone left her a creepy message about the thefts.

"I have information vital for you to know. I can't speak on the phone, though. It's not safe," the man said and implored her to meet him at a Whole Foods at 11:30 p.m. He ended the call repetitively: "If you want to know where your banners have gone, I have information that's vital to you."

Kavoulakis did not go. She didn't get the message until this morning, "and I wouldn't have gone anyway," she says.

She reported both thefts to the police, who told her that if she finds the banners or discovers who took them, she should call them and not deal with the thief directly. But she wants to know who had the gall to not only take her garage sign, but prop a ladder against her house in the middle of the night and cut down a banner tied there with industrial-strength rope. "It's not the banners I want, it's the person," she says. She's offering $1,000 for information and has advertised as much on her neighborhood Listserv and on a Web site for D.C. Steelers fans.

Last night's call was the first of its kind. Mostly, she says, she's had offers of support, to include "kicking the butt" of whomever dissed her deep-rooted loyalties. Kavoulakis, who moved to D.C. for work in 1992, used to go to the games with her parents, season-ticket holders since the early '70s. When her father died, she and her sister took on the mantle, attending the home games in a section with people who've been sitting with her family for 40 years. She's been to some away games, too, including those at FedExField. "I was among those making too much noise" with the other Terrible Towel-toting non-Redskins fans. When her team's farther down the road, she stays in D.C. and watches, like a lot of Steelers fans, at the Pour House in Cap Hill.

After she put up the banners—which she bought in the Strip District following the AFC Championship—none of her neighbors complained. "No one left a note under my door. People told me they thought it was fun."

Still, no one claimed to have seen anything, either. "The person had to go through a gate, over a stone wall. They trampled my flower bed...and no one saw anyone put up a 20-foot ladder?" she says.

Kavoulakis has suspicions about who would do such a thing. She hasn't ruled out an extreme Skins fan, but it's unlikely. "A lot of people I've talked to agree," she says, "it was probably a Ravens fan."

Flickr photo by daveynin.

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  • ditriech

    Let's be honest. It could have been a Browns fan. We're dicks too.

  • Steelers Fan

    Are the Browns still an NFL team? I thought they semi-pro???

  • Cordell Stewart

    You know, the Steelers just cut me adrift after I gave them my mind, body, and soul. It's payback time, pure and simple.

  • Scott

    This woman is an idiot and is wasting the time of the police. They don't care about who took her banner nor should they. She's probably the victim of some teenagers.

  • Duh

    It would be funnier if you spelled my name right.



    p.s. You won in early February so the huge banner probably should have came down earlier and you might still have it.

  • Frank

    Dear lord, only in Cleveland Park do people think the loss of a banner is worthy of calling the police. And a $1,000 reward to boot!

    Some people are beyond reason and perspective. You live in a heavily populated area, things left outside get taken. Thank you for wasting my tax dollars having the police investigate your life critical banner.

  • Libby

    Theft, vandalism and trespassing are all crimes. As a resident of DC I have every right to call the police when my home and property are invaded. Anyone who does not understand that the point of this outcry is not the banner, but the overt crime is the idiot. And, we all pay taxes, hmmmm, except maybe for those such asScott and Frank.

  • From Loudoun County

    Last time I checked, we all have a right to free speech (whether in speeches behind a podium or via banners hung on our houses (although that wouldn't be permissible out here in my heavily regulated HOA). Prank or not, more importantly, someone trespassed on your property, which is against the law, I believe.

  • Frank

    And this is where perspective comes to play... I only hope for your sake that the next you actually need the police to respond for a real crime, they aren't delayed by their life threatening invesigation of someones missing lawn ornament!

    As a homeowner on Newark, but a stones throw from Reno, I certainly pay my fair share of property and income tax in the District, and I would be embarrased and mortified to have any of my neighbors know that I thought the prank of someone removing a football banner from my house was worth wasting the time of the District PD, or the posting of a $1,000 dollar reward.

    To each their own.

  • T-Dog

    "Stealers Country" would be more correct, actually.

    I can't believe "Scott" would berate Ms. Kavoulakis for finding this a serious issue. Imagine someone breaking into one's property, trampling over a homeowner's flower-bed and going to the effort of vandalizing her home. I'd be really ticked off as well.

    I hope the crazy thief (sure sounds like it!) returns the banners soon.

    All the way from the Great White North,


  • Kevin

    Dear Frank,

    If someone steps foot on my property without permission, I will always call the police. It starts with a lawn ornament and ends with your television and stereo. This happened to me and it started with someone stealing mail. I am pretty sure my neighbors would be embarassed and angered if I allowed this behavior to go on without notifying the police. I hope you are never my neighbor and I find it quite cowardly that you would allow someone to steal from you and your family without taking any action. If you truly feel this way, let me know where you live and I'll stop by to ocassionaly mess with you. See how long it lasts before you are "wasting" police time.

    - Kevin

  • Fred

    Steelers world champs?

    Oh yeah, those victories over the Calgary Bobcats and Tokyo Tigers in the international playoffs really sealed the deal.

    These sorts of statements ("we're world champs!") really get stale and look stupid with time.

    The teams were so bad this season in the NFL that I don't even know if Pittsburgh could've beaten Florida.

  • Kevin

    Dear Fred,

    Yes, world champs. I think it is pretty obvious that the National Football league is the "major league" for football. If the teams you mention, even were real, any NFL team would crush them. Fact is, they are not. Fine, if you want to be technical and take away the "world" title, by all means go for it. It changes nothing, its a complicated game that isn't played or liked everywhere in the world, big deal. and? so? whats your point? the Steelers are the best in the WORLD at playing AMERICAN football. period. It Pittsburgh played Florida you better hope they allow the red shirted players to play because they would be needed by the end of the first quarter. Quit being a hater.

  • CP Friend

    I'm guessing the "ransom" call was an April Fools prank, prompted by her post on the CP listserv offering a reward for info about who stole the banners.

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  • RavNsfan

    In NFL limbo during the 12 year period after the Colts left B'more and the Ravens arrived my wife and I adopted the Chicago Bears and attended a local game in DC. The bottom line is that Redskins fans, ...about as obnoxious as any Steelers fan..., vandalized the Bears bumper and window stickers/decals that were on our personal vehicle left parked in the RFK Stadium parking lot.

    So dear lady, before you go accusing a Ravens fan of commiting this ridiculous crime remember "why" relatives and neighbors are always the leading suspects when family members/friends are found belly up of unnatural causes. In that same mindset look no further than a one block radius of your home for the Redskin fan culprit and then send that grand to me ASAP.

    ~ Drew
    c/o: (Usenet)