This weekend we are listening to the ESPN Films 30 for 30 Shorts podcast about the 1980’s United States Marshal Service sting to apprehend dozens of fugitives in one operation. During the early 80’s the USMS was underfunded, and the cost and risk of arresting fugitives were extreme. To avoid individual raids and additional expense, the USMS concocted a scheme that used the recent popularity of the Washington Redskins and free football tickets sent to fugitive’s homes.
At the time this sting was created, the USMS was a maligned agency without much funding and a dangerous directive, to capture America’s fugitives. To drum up some positive press and capture over a hundred fugitives, the USMS sent notices out to their targets telling the targets they had just won free Washington Redskins tickets. The fugitives need only come to the headquarters of the newly formed television network to claim their prize.
The operation itself was impressive. Marshals dressed as cheerleaders and hugged the fugitives as they walked into the room to discretely see if the fugitives were carrying firearms. A Marshal dressed in a chicken suit was holding an automatic rifle in the event things turned ugly. The entire operation hid in plain sight and was kept secret and somehow managed to avoid being exposed, almost.
Another cable network that had exclusive rights to broadcast the Washington Redskins games found out about the USMS event and almost shut it down because of promotional concerns. Had the other cable network publicized the purported dispute or had they tried to shut down the USMS operation, all would have been lost. Fortunately, the other cable network cooperated and actually did everything they could to make the operation look legitimate.
This is one of the more interesting 30 for 30’s ESPN has done and anyone with a passing interest in sports, law, or law enforcement will enjoy this 20 minute podcast.