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Says Wilkins, "I get letters from girls that say, 'Call me when you get to my town.' They send me naked pictures with their name and phone number on the back. I show them to the guys, and we laugh about it. But it ain't so funny now, is it?"
"You don't have to be Magic Johnson," says defensive end Dexter Manley of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "As a pro football player, the availability is there whether you're single or married. I know players who went to certain bars and brought back two or three different women during curfew. If you're in this league long enough, you know women all over the country willing to yield to your request. Were they the same women yielding to the requests of, say, the Philadelphia Eagles the week before? Maybe."
To be sure, even before Magic's bombshell, some pro athletes were doing less catting around in bars and traditional pickup joints. Fearful of negative publicity, which can cost them endorsement deals, and generally more aware of the perils of alcohol abuse and the prevalence of drugs in bars, players have become somewhat more discreet when it comes to picking up women. "Some players with an image to protect will get other guys to bring a particular woman to them," says Manley.
One relatively recent phenomenon is the practice that one baseball team calls "importing." Rather than have a one-night stand with a stranger, a player will fly in an out-of-town girlfriend—as Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox did in his notorious relationship with Margo Adams—to join him on the road. "I'm sure the safety factor enters into this," says one team executive. "With the high salaries today, players can easily afford it."
Escort services are usually discreet and expedient, though using them seems to be the exception with athletes rather than the rule. However, escort services can pose a different sort of risk for players, as Magic's former Laker teammate James Worthy discovered last year. The service he called turned out to be a police undercover operation. In addition to being publicly embarrassed, Worthy was fined $1,000, sentenced to one year's probation and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.
But not all players shun the bar scene. "Some of us will call a hooker once in a while, when you just don't want to wait," says one baseball player, a National Leaguer. "It depends how many hormones are working. But most of the time, you go out to the bars. You like the challenge, the thrill of the hunt. When you go with a hooker or someone easy, it's like the hunter going to the store to buy dinner."
For most players the hunt involves no more than opening the door to their room or stepping onto the hotel elevator. One NBA trainer tells of the time two of his team's players, one married and the other single, got on a hotel elevator in Phoenix with an attractive young woman. "They asked her if she was busy, and she said no," the trainer says. "One of the guys, the one who was married, took her to his room. Actually stole her from the other guy with a spin move in the hall."
"I can't tell you how many phone calls a player gets at the hotel," says Grant. "Or people come up to you in the lobby or restaurant and say, 'I saw you on TV.' "
That's all? I saw you on TV, let's go to bed? What kind of women are these? "They have all types of backgrounds," says Grant. "Some like the life-style. Others want money—not necessarily cash, but dinner at a fancy restaurant, for example. In the backs of their minds there's always a possibility that it could lead to a permanent love relationship. A few use the excuse that they're addicted to sex. There arc some gold diggers out there too."
"They want the thrill of being with an athlete," says Wilkins. "And they don't want safe sex. They want to have your baby, man, because they think that if they have your baby, they're set for life. That's the hard fact of it, because if they had a life, they wouldn't be hanging around the hotel or showing up at the back door of the arena trying to pick up a player." A number of prominent athletes have been served with paternity suits in the past few years, and who knows how many other such suits have been settled quietly?