(WOMENSENEWS)-Three sports writers for USA Today, the national newspaper owned by the Gannett chain, were fired for writing graffiti with their fingers on the powdery surface of a five-foot-round blue ball–the artwork placed outside the office of Gannett chief executive officer Douglas McCorkindale’s office–according to media critic Jim Romenesko.

In his online MediaNews Extra! Romensko said McCorkindale on Monday fired the three women: Karen Allen, a 20-year Gannett staffer and Olympics correspondent; Denise Tom, who has worked for the company for more than 10 years and Cheryl Phillips, computer-assisted- reporting editor for the sports section and a board member of a prominent professional organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors.

MediaNews, quoting an unidentified source, reported on Tuesday that a male sports reporter and a male Gannett News Service reporter had to be separated by a dozen policemen two months ago after they brawled at Gannett Co., Inc., headquarters in McLean, Va. Their punishment was a one-month unpaid suspension.

One of the fired staffers scrawled “Kilroy was here” with her finger in the ball’s dust-like surface and another wrote her name in the ball’s powdery covering-antics captured by surveillance camera, MediaNews reported.

“There was an act of vandalism involving a piece of artwork at the Gannett Headquarters, but I can’t say more because it’s an internal matter,” USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson told MediaNews.

For more information:

The Poynter Institute Media News letters