|12-29-2007, 03:00 PM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The Ville
Athletes increasingly aware fame can result in violence
Anthony Carter keeps a handgun near his bed when the lights go out at night.
Dre Bly constantly checks the rearview mirror to see if he is being followed as he drives home from work.
Marcus Camby diligently sets his home security system after tucking his daughters into bed.
Kobe Bryant travels with a security detail that qualifies as "His Majesty's Secret Service."
Precautionary habits, to be sure, but ones that are becoming more commonplace, not to mention, essential, considering the year of violence against professional athletes.
"It's just the nature of things now," Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin said. "You're not safe nowhere. . . . We're targets.
Everybody knows that, so you just have to be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself the best way you can."
Martin was one of the last
people to see Broncos cornerback
Darrent Williams alive as several football and basketball players celebrated Martin's birthday and ushered in the new year at The Shelter nightclub a year ago.
After leaving the nightclub in a stretch Hummer limousine, Williams was shot and killed when someone opened fire on the vehicle as it traveled Speer Boulevard.
It was a chilling start to 2007, a year scarred by the deaths of Williams and Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was gunned down last month at his Florida home.
"Some things have happened over the past year that were tragic," said Domonique Foxworth, one of Williams' closest friends. "I hope they don't become consistent instances."
Given the number of crimes against athletes in the months after Williams was killed, that might be too much to hope for.
From the time they are old enough to shoot their first hoop, throw their first spiral or hit their first home run, many children dream of fame and fortune enjoyed by the pro athletes who appear to be invincible heroes.
Few think of the headaches and hazards that come with the job.
Jealous friends and foes. Overzealous fans. Opportunistic criminals.
Williams' death is believed to be the result of an altercation between people in his party and gang members.
Taylor was killed during a home invasion by four young men, including two who had loose ties to the player and allegedly targeted the 24-year-old football player for his wealth.
In separate episodes in July, New York Knicks center Eddy Curry and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Antoine Walker were robbed at their Chicago-area homes.
Just three weeks ago, Indiana Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley escaped unharmed when someone opened fire on his Rolls-Royce with an assault rifle outside an Indianapolis hotel.
The police blotter goes on to the point where it's no longer unique to hear about a professional athlete subjected to the same dangers as the average fan who pays top dollar to see them play.
"You hear about athletes' stories a lot more than you do (a normal citizen) but it happens everywhere," Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers player, said during a recent stop in Denver. "Athletes, things get sensationalized so much because we're in the public's eye. It's tough to say that we're targeted more than anybody else. But more at risk? Probably."
When Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony hears about fellow athletes being shot at, robbed or assaulted, he makes no pretense at surprise.
"I've been there and done all that," he said. "It's nothing new to me."
As professional sports leagues try to help their players stay safe, Anthony could be a case study for young athletes who must learn to handle the responsibilities and dangers that come with newly attained fame and fortune.
Within 15 months of signing his first multimillion-dollar contract at age 19, Anthony experienced his first lesson in how not to respond when faced with confrontation.
Anthony was involved in an altercation after a man allegedly spit in his girlfriend's face during a party at a New York nightclub in September 2004. Though no one was hurt, two men who videotaped the episode later sought millions of dollars in an extortion scheme.
In hindsight, Anthony, now 23, knows he simply should have walked away when words and actions got heated.
"I was fresh from Baltimore, so I didn't know no better," Anthony said. "If somebody say one thing to me, I'm going to say something right back to them. But you learn. You get older and you start learning."
Bryant - he's both vilified and adored as one of the most recognized NBA players on the planet - also learned early in his career to hold his tongue when strangers tried to bait him with verbal barbs.
Never was the temptation to fire back stronger than in the months after he was accused of sexual assault in 2003 in Eagle County.
"You just have to laugh it off," Bryant said. "I'm a basketball player. I'm not a gangster. It's not an ego thing; it's not a macho thing."
Allen Iverson, who shares top billing with Anthony on the Pepsi Center marquee, used to care more about his street cred than his well-being.
Once known as the tattoo-covered, baggy-clothes-wearing, trash-talking, jewelry-clad bad boy of the NBA, Iverson has matured gradually during the past 12 years.
He still wears large diamond earrings and carries himself with a quiet confidence, but he no longer frequents nightclubs with a history of violence and he has learned to turn the other cheek when people try to gain 15 minutes of infamy.
"I'm 32. I'm not 22 no more, so obviously, I don't do the same things that I used to," he said. "As you get older and you go through so many of these things, you just feel blessed that the mistakes that you made weren't serious enough to have you in jail or dead."
Father figure, watchdog
During a 37-year career with the Denver police department, Dave Abrams saw plenty of people land in jail and the morgue.
He worked as a homicide investigator, served as head of the SWAT unit and was captain of the gang unit. Many of his off- duty hours were spent working security detail for the Broncos when they traveled for weekend games and occasional Super Bowl appearances.
Abrams, now retired from law enforcement, is vice president of security for the Broncos - a full-time position he accepted in the wake of Williams' death on New Year's Day.
"My phone sits by my bed stand and you dread those late-night calls like we got with Darrent Williams last year," Abrams said. "It just causes so much harm so quick."
Keeping players out of harm's way is Abrams' primary focus. He meets with them regularly during the season, emphasizing the importance of making good decisions and minimizing their exposure to trouble when going out in public.
"They're a lot like cops: a bunch of macho type of guys who can take care of themselves in every situation," Abrams said. "You just try to encourage them to recognize when things are turning bad or not looking good and it's no shame to go ahead and get somebody to help intervene for you - a doorman, an off-duty cop, a manager - to kind of control situations so they don't spin out of control."
Abrams also stresses the importance of maintaining a low profile, something that can be difficult for 300-pound linemen and 6-foot-10 basketball players, particularly when their wealth is displayed through the jewelry they wear and the cars they drive.
"A lot of the guys, I've told them: 'You guys got big bull's-eyes on you. The trouble is, they're all painted green with big dollar signs on them,' " Abrams said.
"It's hard (to keep a low profile) when you've got a Hummer with 26-inch rims that are spinning all the time and you've got all the fancy stuff. Discretion's the better part of valor."
As a 6-2 point guard for the Nuggets, Carter does not stand out in a crowd, but he does feel obligated to protect himself and his family at their offseason home in San Antonio or when traveling to his hometown of Atlanta.
He has a Florida-issued license to carry a handgun, which he keeps in a safe, out of reach of his two sons.
"I never show it, never tell nobody," Carter said. "I don't carry it into clubs, because it ain't worth it. It's just for my protection and the family."
Bly, in his first season as cornerback for the Broncos, does not believe in guns but he keeps a baseball bat near his bed. He also tries to steer clear of places that can lead to trouble, with the understanding that there's only so much that he can control.
"Just gotta have faith and pray," he said. "I'm not going to let anybody keep me from doing the things I want to do. But when you do go out, you have to look over your shoulder.
"There's no place that you can say is safe. You just have to be at the right place at the right time and hope everything's in your favor."
Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, 22, shares a similar fatalistic view.
"We get targeted, but that just comes with the job," Smith said. "You can't avoid it. The only way you can avoid it is by staying in the house, and nobody wants to just sit in the house all day.
"I always worry about my safety. Safety is always an issue, but if it's going to happen to you, it's going to happen to you. You can't change it. It's just in your cards."
Fate might play a small role in safety, but most athletes are starting to understand that their actions, personal relationships and decisions are more likely to prevent them from becoming larger targets than they already are.
Martin and Anthony don't have bodyguards, lest they attract more attention, and teammate Camby rarely goes out when the Nuggets are on the road.
"I don't really roll like that," Camby said. "I don't roll with big entourages. I'm a family guy. I'm a dad, a husband and a father. I'm pretty much a homebody."
Down the road in Dove Valley, Foxworth still has dreams of success on the football field and in his personal life. The death of his friend Williams never is far from his heart or his mind.
"I'm definitely more conscious of (avoiding trouble) now that I lost one of my best friends," Foxworth said. "Whatever happens out in the club is never a big enough deal for me. I've never seen anything happen that was a big enough deal for me to be killed."
Safe at home (and on the road)
In an effort to keep their players safe, Denver's four major pro sports teams employ security officials who work as liaisons to local law enforcement and provide assistance and advice to players when necessary.
* Broncos: Dave Abrams, vice president of security. Former Denver police officer who served as captain of the gang unit and head of SWAT during 37 years on the force.
* Nuggets: Bobby Simmons, director of team security. Former Denver police detective who spent 34 years on the force.
* Rockies: Don Lyon, director of security and safety. Former hostage negotiator and crisis management instructor for the FBI.
* Avalanche: The NHL assigns a local security officer to the club for home and road games.
|12-29-2007, 03:15 PM||#2|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Great article Heav. Very refreshing to see these players understand how dangerous their positions can be. Too bad it has taken the tragic deaths of friends and athletes to make them understand.
|12-29-2007, 04:49 PM||#3|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Jan 2007
great article.......i luv melo, if a dude spit in my girls face i would **** him up too