Trying to eat in Japan left bad taste in mouths of visiting Dolphin players

August 18, 1992|By Amy Niedzielka | Amy Niedzielka,Knight-Ridder

MIAMI -- The hostess in the Japanese restaurant in Berlin kept her head down, unable to look at the four Miami Dolphins and their dates that she was refusing to serve.

"We no have room for you," she mumbled to Liffort and Leisha Hobley, Pat and Cheryl Swoopes, and J.B. Brown and Walter Wilson and their girlfriends.

She said this though just four people sat in the dining room. The reservation book was nearly blank. A German couple that followed the group into the restaurant was seated immediately.

But somehow there was no room for these black players and their dates.

"I was shocked," said Wilson, a wide receiver.

All were. They walked out disgusted, leaving behind a few angry comments.

"I said, 'How can you discriminate in a country you're not even from?' " Brown said.

The incident was one of several that made some Dolphins and their companions feel very much like outsiders during last week's trip to Berlin for Saturday's exhibition against the Broncos.

Hobley said many players -- black and white -- received bad service in restaurants. Some felt swindled by taxi drivers who seemed to take extra long routes. A street vendor shouted angrily in German to a group of players' wives and girlfriends as they shopped.

It was strange: for a week the Dolphins were nothing more than an average bunch of tourists in a country where U.S. military personnel often run into discrimination.

On the first night of the visit, a large group of players and their dates went to a German steakhouse for dinner. Swoopes asked about the size of the portions. The waiter made "an ugly face" and told him this was not an American restaurant. Someone else asked if the beer was cold (German beer is traditionally served warm).

"I should hope so," the waiter said. Others asked for help deciphering the German menu, and received none.

"He didn't seem too pleased with us being in the restaurant," Swoopes said. "He had a bitter attitude."

After about five minutes, several in the party left. A little later, the rest followed.

"We were treated rudely," Hobley said. "Even before we ordered, they had the attitude: 'We don't want to serve you; go somewhere else.' "

Many of the players settled on a Chinese restaurant near the Japanese one as a place to find decent food and treatment.

I= "The few times we had problems and went to another restau

rant it was like night and day," Swoopes said.

"Even though we were getting rude treatment, I was glad to see everyone keep their composure."

Perhaps they thought of the ill effects of improper conduct. Maybe the solicitation charges levied against Ferrell Edmunds and Larry Webster earlier this summer came to mind. Or the negative publicity Alfred Oglesby received for fabricating an abduction story.

"I didn't want to make a scene, have the police come," Brown said. "We've already had enough incidents on this team."

Hobley said the dinner experiences discouraged him and his wife from sightseeing. They took none of the tours.

"After being in that atmosphere, I didn't care to see much of their country at all," Hobley said. "Put it this way, we won't be going back there any time soon."

"I just didn't feel like we were very welcome there," Brown said. "You got the feeling you were like an alien or something."

The incidents -- namely the one in the Japanese restaurant -- were unexpected, Brown said, but not unfathomable.

"I believe it happens all over the world," Brown said. "I think it happens down here, it happens in every city in the United States, it happens in every country in the world. Why get upset? It's something you have to deal with your whole life."

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