McCrary a target of cheap punch

Pro Football

February 20, 2002|By Mike Preston

WHEN NEWS came out Friday that a Ravens player was involved in a bar fight, it was no big deal. Just another player, another fight and another day in the life of a professional athlete.

But once Michael McCrary's name was mentioned, that raised an eyebrow. When the report said he was hit in the nose with a beer bottle, there was the stench of player haters.

That's what this case is all about.

McCrary is no Bam Morris, no Cornell Brown. He is on the list of Ravens least likely to get in trouble, along with Peter Boulware, Matt Stover, Jonathan Ogden, Rob Burnett, Edwin Mulitalo and Mike Flynn.

McCrary says he wasn't involved in a fight at the Redwood Trust nightclub on the morning of Feb. 10. He says there wasn't a fight, because he never had a chance to throw a punch as he and a friend were jumped and beaten by a group of men. McCrary left the nightclub with four stitches across his nose and damaged tissue around his neck and throat.

His friend Anthony Asaaye wasn't as fortunate. He lost three teeth and suffered a fractured eye socket, which required surgery. In this situation, McCrary calls himself a victim.

I believe him.

Not just because he is a player or comes from a prominent family. Not because he went to Wake Forest or has given enormous amounts of time and money to local charities such as the Police Athletic League and the Special Olympics.

But also because no one in the "alleged" fight has filed a suit against McCrary and those things usually surface early. If there had been one, or two, The Sun would have been called. TV reporter Jayne Miller would have been live, local and late-breaking.

But nothing.

In modern times, athletes get sponged for just about everything. Where are the lawsuits?

"Anthony, a female friend of mine and I were standing opposite of the VIP room and a large group of guys and girls," said McCrary in his first public statements about the incident. "My female friend starts talking to this one girl, and she brings her over to our group. It's mostly conversation between the two females. This guy comes up to her, pulls her arm, acts like he is jealous because the girl is talking to us.

"A little later, the girl comes back, but she is talking more to my female friend than to me, and it's just small talk," said McCrary. "He pulls her by the arm again, takes her over to the sofa. Well, she gets up to leave, and I go over to sit on the sofa. As I start to sit down, this guy puts his hand in my chest shoving me, and then hits me in the face with the other hand.

"After that, I don't remember much. I couldn't get my balance, couldn't get any leverage. All I can remember is getting pummeled to the body and just covering up my face and head. From what I heard, Anthony came over and pulled one guy off and they jumped him, too."

McCrary said that even after the lights were turned on and the fight stopped, he was attacked for a second time.

"We had blood on us, and my friend looked really bad," said Mc- Crary. "The guys who did this were on one side, and bouncers were on the other. Both groups were taunting us. Obviously, they were friends. I was furious, but I had to have control in that situation. I told the owner I wanted the names of the people involved, and he said we started it. We went back and forth for a few seconds, but then one of those bouncers grabbed me from behind the neck, two more grabbed my legs and one around the waist and carried me down two flights of stairs to the outside."

I know the bouncer types, big stiffs who couldn't play high school sports. Then one day they discover weights, then steroids and creatine. They wear their little brothers' T-shirts to make themselves look bigger. To build self-esteem, they beat up little guys.

McCrary carried a bigger bounty. He was a big, bad football player. He was a target, and it comes with being a pro athlete.

"I've revisited the incident a million times," said McCrary. "I really feel bad for my friend. I took him out to show him Baltimore. This just eats me up, that the people who did this to me are still walking around laughing about it.

"If it was me who had been accused of groping a woman or driving while intoxicated, it would have been a big story. Instead, it's a story that gets pushed inside the paper."

Those involved won't get away. They picked the wrong person and the wrong family. McCrary's credentials are impeccable. He is a mouse socially, seldom wanting people to know he plays in the NFL. He is not a flashy dresser, doesn't show off his money.

He is well-known nationally as well as locally from being featured in United Way spots to being co-chair of the Sports Advisory Council of the Special Olympics of Maryland.

He has created "Mac's Miracle Fund," a charitable foundation committed to reaching urban youth.Two years ago, after learning that the Special Olympics program van had to be scrapped, McCrary purchased a new cargo van for $20,000. And last April, he won the Byron "Whizzer" White Humanitarian Award, which is the NFL Players Association's highest honor of humanitarian achievement.

Back in 1972, the McCrarys sued a segregated day care center. At issue was whether a private business was exempt from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the McCrarys.

They'll show the same resolve in this incident, too.

"We're conducting our own investigation, and we'll know the answer soon," said Hassan Murphy, a lawyer representing McCrary, about a possible lawsuit. "We expect that what happened to Mike and his friend, there will be one soon."

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