Pro athletes' celebrity can make them targets

Physical confrontations and money scams are drawbacks of having fame and wealth

July 11, 2006|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN REPORTER

It's unknown whether Roderick Green's status as an NFL player had anything to do with the stabbing of the Ravens' reserve linebacker Sunday.

The league and team, however, devote considerable resources to educating their players about the downside of their celebrity in general, and specifically how to deal with incidents such as the one that endangered Green.

"I've spoken to the team a half-dozen times in preseason camp, precisely about this issue," said C. Carey Deeley, an attorney for the Ravens.

Green, whose injuries weren't considered serious, apparently was attacked after an early morning bumping incident at a Randallstown bowling center.

Professional athletes who are wealthy and enjoy the nightlife can get into an inordinate amount of trouble with their own reckless behavior, but occasionally they become victims of scammers or people out to prove they are physically tougher.

The violence that can ensue is a long way from the 1960s, when John Unitas could disarm a pesky fan by planting a kiss on Unitas' drinking buddy.

"The modern professional athlete reaps considerable rewards, from status to endorsement income," said Peter Roby, the director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. "Unfortunately, their celebrity can result in people targeting them, for whatever reason. That comes with the territory.

"A professional athlete has a lot more money than the average person. They may settle a legal suit before it gets to court. There are also people who look to create a reputation for themselves by engaging a celebrity in physical violence. They can create notoriety where there is none, put a notch on their belt, if you will."

In February 2002, according to reports in The Sun, Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary was struck by a bottle and attacked by several men during a fight at a Redwood Street bar.

That same year, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis ended a lengthy legal dispute over a 1999 fight in a Woodlawn bar.

According to reports in The Sun, two women had sued Lewis, and in response he filed charges of malicious prosecution. A Baltimore County jury cleared Lewis of wrongdoing and ordered the two women to pay him $10,000. He later dropped the malicious prosecution charge against the women, in return for their dropping their appeal of the jury award that had cleared Lewis.

A bad run of publicity in 2004 for the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony included a fight with a rapper in a New York nightclub. The New York Times reported that three men were charged with attempting to extort $3 million from Anthony, a former Towson Catholic star, with a videotape of the incident.

Orioles fans remember first baseman Glenn Davis being demoted to Triple-A and having his jaw broken by a bouncer in June 1993. According to a 1996 Associated Press report, Davis won $1.6 million in a lawsuit stemming from that fight.

The stabbing of Green occurred two weeks to the day after the NFL opened its 10th Rookie Symposium, where the theme is "Choices, Decisions, Consequences."

That four-day gathering in San Diego was mandatory for all drafted players. The speakers included Shawne Merriman, a year after he attended as a rookie out of the University of Maryland. Beyond the financial advice, there were skits about pitfalls to avoid.

"We present players with various situations they might face in public," said Dan Masonson, an NFL spokesman.

O.J. Brigance, the Ravens' director of player development, oversees the team's educational program, which includes speakers such as Deeley.

"NFL athletes are not immune from becoming victims of violence," Deeley said. "The Ravens try to tell their players that, as public figures, they face a greater likelihood of standing out. Players are counseled to be alert and take reasonable steps to avoid the dangers that we all face on a daily basis."

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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