She has the last Laf (cont.)
Posted: Monday March 19, 2007 3:32PM; Updated: Monday March 19, 2007 5:39PM
A quick glance at Laflin's resume would cause just about anyone to shake their heads. She cheered for both the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, owns a Super Bowl ring and multiple NBA championship rings, was hired as a female scout by an NBA team and become the assistant general manger of that team's developmental team. In between all that, Laflin founded Double Play Sportswear, a women's clothing line, worked for ESPN, had reoccurring roles on Ally McBeal and Baywatch and did photo shoots for Playboy, Stuff and FHM.
"Sometimes I think maybe I need to slow down because it hasn't made my personal life easy," says Laflin, who ended up meeting her current boyfriend Ross Yastrzemski, an Apache pilot and the cousin of baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, last year in Iraq during a USO Tour. "There's a lot of people that are one dimensional but I've been able to get a taste of everything."
Laflin's rise from a Golden State Warriors cheerleader just before her 18th birthday to a member of the Lakers scouting department less than 10 years later happened because of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who has been a family friend of the Laflins for years after getting to know her father, Ross, who did bodyguard work for Buss and many athletes while Bonnie-Jill was growing up. When Laflin moved to Los Angeles in 1999, Buss essentially served as her father figure and took on the role quite literally, opening the same doors to her that he would to anyone of his children.
"I called him when I moved here and he has really been like a father figure," said Laflin. "He treats me like I'm one of the family. I've become close with everyone and have seen the younger kids grow up. I'm the only person outside of the family that has been given this type of position."
"Up until I met Bonnie-Jill I was a male chauvinist," said Buss. "Then I sat down and talked football and basketball and more basketball with her for two hours when she came here and realized maybe she knew more about the sports than I did and I changed my mind and I thought that she deserved a chance to be a professional scout."
While Laflin's name isn't mentioned in the Lakers media guide, there isn't an employee who Buss would rather promote than Laflin. Following the D-Fenders game, Laflin heads up to Buss' plush suite to watch the Lakers game. The room is almost like an exclusive club with a security guard exchanging a red wristband for a game ticket as soon as you walk through the doors. While Buss entertains Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, his attention turns to Laflin as soon as she walks into the room.
"I thought you guys would want to meet the NBA's first girl scout," says Buss, almost chuckling at his word play. "We're so happy to have her and we liked her so much that we hired her as a scout; our first girl scout."
The meeting brings a smile to the owners' faces as they shake her hand. "Isn't that amazing," says Richardson. "That is a great thing." McCourt nods his head in agreement saying "Jerry's been telling me about that and I think that's amazing. I'm all for that. We like breaking down barriers. We used to think we had the monopoly on breaking down those barriers but not anymore."
Buss, however, doesn't see his hiring of Laflin as breaking down any walls so much as giving someone he believes in a chance. "I'm not out to prove anything," said Buss. "If you find intelligent females I think they should be given an equal chance with the males. She's done well so far but we'll see how she fares. We judge all of our scouts very seriously and we have her scouting reports and three or four years after the drafts we see how all of our scouts did so we'll found out."
The day after the game Laflin is up bright and early sitting on the bleachers inside of the Lakers' practice facility in nearby El Segundo. She's watching the D-Fenders go through drills and chatting with coach Dan Panaggio. Despite her title, Laflin, like most outsiders, wondered how much of a role she would actually play with the team once the season began. "I thought I'd sit here and say a couple of things but they weren't really going to listen to what I had to say but it hasn't been that way at all," she said. "I know some people might think that have this title but don't actually do anything but that's not the case at all. I have input in all the decisions we make."
As she leaves the practice facility in a sequined D-Fenders purple tank top and black pants, she knows that as long as she stands out in a crowd it will be difficult to gain everyone's respect in the somewhat discrete world of scouting but that's just fine with her. "Its hard coming from my background in cheerleading and modeling," she says. "It's always working against me. People are going to automatically think I'm just a pretty face but I can't do anything about that. Being a female in this industry is very intimidating but everyone in the organization has really made me feel comfortable and feel like one of the guys."