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|Athletes and Strip Clubs|| Rate Topic
|Posted: Thu Nov 29th, 2007 04:21 pm||
It is pro sports' open secret: A legal, but risky, world of women, adult entertainment, testosterone, money and alcohol, where athletes bond with teammates, celebrate victories and drown sorrows over losses.
In what used to be old, dimly lit places with sawdust on the floor and a stigma attached to the furtive patrons, athletes now are in plain view at a new breed of high-end "gentlemen's clubs" with VIP sections, late-night dining, limo service — and, increasingly, trouble.
Many athletes and celebrities view upscale strip clubs as a "new type of nightclub" — and a "great form of entertainment," says New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan, a seven-time Pro Bowler.
Although Strahan says he doesn't frequent strip clubs, he doesn't have a problem with those who do. "It's a free country. You can do whatever you want to do. As long as you're not breaking the law, you're not hurting anybody and it's not illegal. Why can't you do it?"
In his new book, "Inside the Helmet: Life as a Sunday Afternoon Warrior," Strahan warns that famous athletes out in public are often targets for hecklers, paparazzi and fans with cellphone cameras.
"I just think you have to be responsible. … That's where guys end up in trouble," Strahan told USA Today.
That they do. The after-hours connection between athletes and/or coaches and strippers and strip clubs is leaving a trail of criminal charges, lawsuits, coaching changes, negative headlines and broken marriages, according to a USA Today examination that included interviews with dozens of current and retired athletes, coaches, athletics directors and law enforcement authorities.
One of the most prominent cases was recently in the news as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell turned down the bid of Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam (Pacman) Jones for early reinstatement from his season-long suspension. Jones was eligible to seek a reduction after the Titans' 10th game, Nov. 19; the NFL Players Association has appealed Goodell's latest ruling.
Nov. 19 also is the nine-month anniversary of the incident that ultimately led to Jones' banishment: the early morning brawl and triple shooting at the Minxx Gentlemen's Club in Las Vegas that left the club's manager, Tommy Urbanski, paralyzed from the waist down.
Jones faces criminal charges and three civil lawsuits for his alleged role in the incident. The suit filed by Urbanski, a former pro wrestler, and his wife, Kathy, on Oct. 19 also names the Titans and the NFL as defendants.
But football players are not the only athletes familiar with strip-club culture. Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes says today's sports stars are not doing anything different than hard-partying legends of yesteryear such as Babe Ruth. Besides, there are far more "Johnny Businessman"-types paying for lap dances than pro athletes, he says. "Athletes are human. If you like going to a strip club, so be it," says Byrnes, who says he prefers corner saloons.
Strip clubs have become "the place to be" for many young men and women, Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson says. "It's a place where you can go and be a guy," Granderson says. With the women, live entertainment and large-screen TVs showing sports, "You've pretty much checked off everything on the list for what a guy might want to do to enjoy himself or relax outside his house."
Or, as John Salley, the former Detroit Pistons forward and now cohost of FSN's "Best Damn Sports Show Period," puts it: "Where do you take warriors? To church? No, you take them around a bunch of scantily dressed women who make them feel like stars."
The NFL this season has expanded its use of life skills seminars that teach players how, among other things, to avoid trouble in strip clubs and nightclubs, says former Oakland Raiders cornerback Mike Haynes, now the league's vice president of player and employee development. All 32 clubs also have security chiefs who advise players on what trouble spots to avoid. Teammates need to watch one another's backs and keep one another out of trouble, he says.
"I've been to strip clubs. … We know people are going to go," Haynes says. "So we just have to try to tell people to make better decisions if they are going to go there."
New York Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who advises new players at the NFL's annual rookie symposium, warns the testosterone-charged strip-club environment is a "catalyst" for trouble. "You've got drunk guys, drunk girls, crowded areas," he says. "Things occur."
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, worries players forget that although the sign reads "gentlemen's club," they're not always filled with gentlemen. "A gentlemen's club is just a nice way of saying a strip club. … Now they got all this upscale stuff, lights, glitter, the whole nine yards. It's so different," Upshaw says.
Players might think gentlemen's clubs are safer "just by the name itself," but that doesn't mean they are, he adds. The NFLPA, however, "would never agree" to an attempt by owners or the league to ban players from strip clubs.
"It's still a free country," Upshaw says.
Guys' night out
It's a country where, in some places, strip clubs have gone mainstream. Deja Vu in Shreveport, La., even offered to sponsor the Independence Bowl in 2005. Bowl officials dismissed it as a publicity stunt, executive director Missy Setters says.
But athletes are in the house virtually every night at Manhattan's Scores topless club, according to club spokesman Lonnie Hanover. "Scores girls get invited to more sporting events than (New York City) Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg," he says.
The adult club's most memorable sports moment was the night then-New York Rangers team captain Mark Messier and some teammates toted the NHL's Stanley Cup into Scores in 1994.
Messier declined to comment directly on Scores during a recent interview, but he said one of the best things about pro sports is "young, single guys" having fun. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's just the way it's done, the way you treat people while you're doing it … the way you conduct yourself while you're doing it."
According to the Web site for Scores Holding Co., Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, boxer Oscar De La Hoya and former NBA star Dennis Rodman have sampled one of the chain's eight U.S. locations. Asked about strip clubs after a practice in mid-September, Shockey laughed, declined to comment and walked away. Representatives for De La Hoya and Rodman declined to comment.
During a 17-year baseball career, Jose Canseco says he saw pro athletes relentlessly pursue exotic dancers. He says some would spend more than $10,000 a night on lap dances, private rooms, champagne toasts and tequila. Others would ply dancers with free tickets and invite them to the ballpark.
"When you go on the road, the first thing athletes do is get their buddies together, go to a club and have some fun," says Canseco, the 1988 American League MVP, better known for his testimony about ballplayers using steroids before Congress in 2005.
The strip-club environment allows athletes to cut to the chase without the will-you-love-me-tomorrow pressure of dating or marriage, says Canseco, who was sponsored in the World Series of Poker on June 1 by Olympic Garden, an adult cabaret in Las Vegas. "There's no strings attached. It's not like you have to wine and dine the girl."
The comments are typical of "spoiled athlete syndrome," says Steven Ortiz, associate professor of sociology at Oregon State. "Pro sports is a hyper-masculine world. Women in this world have subordinate status."
Some dancers — they prefer the term entertainers — refer to millionaire athletes as "ATMs," says Jacklyn (Diva) Bush, a dancer at Atlanta's notorious Gold Club, which was shuttered after a federal investigation in 2001. "We love it when the 'ATMs' come in," says the author of "The Gold Cub: The Jacklyn (Diva) Bush Story."
Nicole Berti, author of "A Face in the Crowd: My Life as an NFL Wife," says strip clubs "bring out the worst elements" in men and women. "Greed, sloth, lust. In one place, in one minute, it all comes out," says the wife of former San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Tony Berti.
The popularity of strip clubs, Berti says, is taking its toll on athlete marriages. In a counterclaim for divorce filed in New Jersey Superior Court on Feb. 15, Joumana Kidd, estranged wife of New Jersey Nets star Jason Kidd, blamed her husband's extramarital affairs with dancers in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Indiana for helping to break up their 10-year marriage.
Athletes frequenting strip clubs, meanwhile, are at the mercy of paparazzi who normally hunt Hollywood prey. Case in point: Free agent, married superstar Alex Rodriguez, who, while playing for the New York Yankees, found himself on the front page of the New York Post on May 30 for accompanying dancer Joslyn Noel Morse to Toronto's Brass Rail, an all-nude club.
Byrnes says the days when athletes could blithely assume their personal lives were off limits are gone: "A-Rod, or anybody of his star caliber, has to understand the ramifications of walking into that strip club. Especially if you play in New York."
Potentially a high price
There can be much more at stake.
•In the past two years, men's golf coaches Brad Neher at the University of Colorado and Jay Donovan at New York University lost their jobs because of strip club-related controversies.
Neher resigned as interim coach in April 2006 after seven of his players celebrated their win at the Stevinson (Calif.) Ranch Invitational tournament by visiting a San Francisco-area strip club March 28, 2006. Neher told USA Today he didn't know where and how the players planned to toast their first tournament win in two years: "They went there 100% on their own."
Although declining to comment on the specifics of Neher's departure, Colorado athletics director Mike Bohn says coaches and students have to make smart decisions on and away from their sports venues.
"The big distinction is that when our golf team got into trouble, they were on official travel status — and representing the University of Colorado," Bohn says.
•Jones and Stephen Jackson of the Golden State Warriors were involved in late-night brawls/shooting incidents.
Jackson, already on probation for his role in the 2004 Indiana-Detroit Pistons brawl as a member of the Pacers, fired his pistol in the air during a fight outside Club Rio in Indianapolis on Oct. 6, 2006, says Sgt. Matthew Mount of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Jackson pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness in June.
Jones is facing two felony coercion charges from the melee that could put him in prison for 12 years. "My guy didn't have anything to do with the shooting. He's not been charged with the shooting," says Jones' attorney, Robert Langford.
•Although the incidents didn't take place at strip clubs, the ill-fated rape case involving members of the Duke men's lacrosse team and the "Love Boat" scandal involving some Minnesota Vikings began with athletes hiring strippers for their private entertainment.
"As an athlete, you put yourself at risk when you put yourself in these situations," Langford says. "Pac is a perfect example. He didn't do anything — but now he's in a world of hurt with the league."
The NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL don't stop players from visiting strip clubs any more than they regulate their visits to restaurants or bars. But that might change if more victims, either real or imagined, take deep-pocketed teams to court over strip club incidents involving players.
Jones had multiple run-ins with the law before the Minxx club brawl, says the attorney representing the Urbanskis, Matthew Dushoff. But the Titans and the NFL didn't really punish Jones until after Urbanski was shot, Dushoff says. As for the argument Jones was at the club on his own time during the off-season, Dushoff argues pro athletes represent their clubs on a "24/7 basis."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says: "We have great sympathy for Tommy and Kathy, but we strongly disagree with any claims against the NFL and the Titans and will respond appropriately to the court."
The Titans "will vigorously dispute the claims," the club said in a statement.
This thread was great before AA ruined it.
|Posted: Thu Nov 29th, 2007 06:39 pm||
The Big Kahuna
|Oh I can see bringing home a few million a year and visiting the local "Club Knockers" once a week just for fun and throwing the women some dough to shut up about it. I would bet the local titty bar is a frequent stop for most of them.
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