Recent off-field issues related to late-night antics
Posted: Monday March 26, 2007 12:16PM; Updated: Wednesday March 28, 2007 12:04AM
These days it's tough to distinguish stories about professional athletes from episodes of Cops. Over the past three months, on-field heroics have been eclipsed by reports of homicides, a triple-shooting that prompted a manhunt for the gunman, violent altercations with police officers, various physical assaults, and a weapons bust that yielded six unlicensed guns and 550 rounds of ammunition. In each case, a pro athlete was involved as either the alleged perpetrator, a suspected accomplice or associate, or as the victim.
What's behind this most recent rash of violence among highly paid athletes? The crime scenes shed light on a dirty little secret that's dragging the image of pro sports into the gutter. An examination of police and published reports revealed that all of the aforementioned incidents took place at a strip club or a nightclub, between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
"It's a cliché, but there's nothing but trouble [early] in the morning," says Los Angeles Clippers center Elton Brand. "You have to know your surroundings. There are places that you know will be no problem, [like] a nice restaurant or nice upscale lounge. There are other places that you know have a track record. You know that you don't need to go there."
But not all players follow this wisdom, and some are getting caught up in or causing trouble, particularly several in the NFL. By SI.com's count, nearly 60 NFL players and coaches have had to deal with some kind of criminal accusation since January 2006, while nearly a dozen each NBA and major league baseball players/coaches have been in trouble with the law during that span.
"Our guys have to realize that they are not invisible, that when you're a player everyone knows who you are," says Gene Upshaw, president of the NFLPA, who disputes the notion that players today are spending more time in clubs then when he played in the late '60s through the early '80s. "Our players are targets -- they [other patrons] don't like that because you're an athlete you get to walk right into an establishment. You don't have to wait in line and then all of a sudden all of the girls approach."
There's a lot of truth to the scenario Upshaw describes, and recently there have been a number of ugly incidents involving athletes:
On New Year's Eve, Denver Broncos' cornerback Darrent Williams was slain when his Hummer was sprayed with bullets shortly after 2 a.m. Williams had been partying at a Denver nightclub with teammates and members of the Denver Nuggets. Published reports indicate that a dispute inside the club preceded the shooting.
On the same night in Minnesota, Vikings wide receiver Travis Taylor was arrested outside a nightclub when he reportedly failed to heed an officer's request that he get into a waiting limousine-bus as police tried to clear a crowd so an ambulance could get through. Ultimately, officers used a Taser to subdue Taylor before charging him with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct. The case is pending.
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