It's about the stupid things athletes can do.
Very good article.
Former bodyguard: Athletes need protection from selves
Posted: Thursday July 24, 2003 4:47 PM
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Michael Silver - Open Mike
Back when Kelly Davis was traveling around the world with the Dennis Rodman Circus, the Chicago police officer and bodyguard extraordinaire became as skilled as the Bulls' rebounding savant in the art of boxing out. Wherever the Worm turned, be it packed club, casino, gay bar or bedroom, Davis was sure to follow, serving as a human buffer against all kinds of potential trouble. Sometimes, that meant getting in the face of the heavily tattooed man who employed him, but Davis had no problem holding his ground.
As Davis said Wednesday, "You're not employed to kiss your client's ass. If your client is about to do something that could land him in jail or get him sued, and you don't stop it, why are you there? If you're afraid to stand up to him, you're nothing but a lackey."
I tracked down Davis, with whom I shared many an all-nighter during the height of Rodmania -- and who has since started a business, Overtime Inc., designed to provide security and guidance for professional athletes -- for fairly obvious reasons: In the wake of the sexual-assault charges filed in Colorado against Kobe Bryant, the subject of star athletes, poor judgment and the ruinous results that can ensue has never been more topical. And while Davis, like the rest of us, can't pretend to know what actually went down in the Laker star's hotel room on that night in late June, the situational specifics that have been reported by various outlets have provoked some strong opinions.
"My understanding is that Kobe has six bodyguards," Davis said (published reports indicate Bryant was accompanied by three unidentified men when he checked into a Colorado hotel on June 30), "and when I first heard about this incident, I thought, Where were they? Were they there when [the alleged encounter] took place, and if they were there, why didn't they stop this 19-year-old from coming into the room? And if they weren't there, where the hell were they?"
Back in the Rodman days, whenever Davis was on duty, no one ever had to ask ask where he was. Even when the prodigious power forward was enjoying his most tender moments, Davis, if not directly present, was close enough to react to any potential "disturbance" -- to use a word that has surfaced in reports of the alleged incident in Bryant's hotel room. Obviously, this spoke to the trust Rodman placed in Davis (and fellow Chicago cop and bodyguard George Triantafillo) during the three years Rodman spent with the Bulls. However, it also went down this way because Davis insisted it be so.
"We had rules," Davis explained. "The first one was that women we didn't know never entered his hotel room. If Kobe truly answered the door to his room that night, as has been reported, that was the first problem. We never let Dennis answer the door.
"If some concierge came to the room, would we have let her in? Never. Anyone who came to the room would have been interrogated -- What's your purpose? Why are you trying to get to my client? --before we considered letting her in."
Of course, it's possible that the woman's answer would be, "Because he invited me."
Indeed, there are times when an athlete asks a woman he has recently met to his room and insists on being intimate with her. Even then, said Davis, there are logical measures that can be taken to protect a client from trouble -- of his own doing or otherwise.
When Rodman was at a hotel, Davis said he made it a point to stay in an adjoining room -- and though the door between the rooms might have been closed at times, it was never locked. "That way," Davis said, "we had easy access to each other's room if something sounded out of the ordinary."
When Rodman and a woman would leave a club together, it was common for Davis or Triantafillo to drive the player's car back to his residence while Rodman and the woman began their encounter in the backseat. Once at the house, the happy lovers would continue their business, but a bodyguard would be in the next room over -- and, sometimes, would briefly monitor the action in a very discreet fashion.
Late one night at Rodman's house near the Bulls' practice facility in Northbrook, Ill., the Worm and a woman he'd met earlier that evening were doing their thing in his bedroom, with Davis in the next room. "I heard the woman say, 'No, no,' and I immediately jumped up and barged into the room," Davis said. "I said, 'Hey, here are your clothes; you have to go. Now.' Of course Dennis was furious. I said, 'I don't want to hear it.' The woman said, 'How am I going to get back?' I told her to get her clothes on, and I drove her home.
"Dennis was on fire, totally pissed off. But you know what? The next day, he thanked me -- not because he had done anything wrong at that point, but because it prevented a potential misunderstanding or situation."
Most of the time, at least when I was in their company, Davis was far less obtrusive. Amid the frothing-at-the-mouth throngs that descended upon Rodman in public places, Davis was the nearly invisible companion who stayed cooler than a wintry Chicago gust of wind. With confusion all around him, Davis seemed to have the pulse rate of a guy watching C-SPAN after popping a Xanax.
At the time Davis, now a patrol officer, was working deep cover in such grisly locales as the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project on Chicago's North Side. The 15-year force veteran has been fired at on numerous occasions, once was shot in the hand by a drug dealer while the two wrestled for his gun, and has been in crack houses, posing as a drug buyer, in which one slip of the tongue or errant facial expression could have meant instant death.
The Chicago police brass were extremely accommodating toward Davis and Triantafillo, allowing them to alter their schedules to accompany Rodman for long stretches. Davis went with him to Europe and Tokyo, as well as numerous domestic locales, serving as a designated driver, registered-firearm carrier and conflict curber.
A couple of years ago Davis and partner Ed Johnson started Overtime Inc., and in the wake of the charge against Bryant, they hope athletes and their employers will feel compelled to sample their services. They say their goal is to have at least one moonlighting police officer on staff in every city with a pro franchise, reasoning that men entrusted with enforcing the law are much more valuable to a prominent athlete than, say, one of his cousins.
"That would eliminate a player hiring his boys as bodyguards," Johnson explained. "Your boy's not normally going to tell you, 'No'; he's just happy to be on your payroll. I talked to one NBA coach who told me, 'Incidents like that don't apply to our team, because we've got model citizens.' Unfortunately, the Kobe situation has changed that whole line of thinking. Anytime a player is prominent, no matter how clean his behavior has been, you need to think in terms of preventing trouble."
Johnson noted that Rodman, the ultimate NBA bad boy, didn't get into any serious off-court trouble during the years he employed Davis. "When Kelly told me the stories," Johnson said, "my first take was that he provided some leadership for this guy. He taught him how to prevent putting himself in bad situations, and even though Dennis didn't like it, it clearly had an impact."
Now, as he tries to build a business, Davis reads about athletes being arrested, from Bryant to Trail Blazers guard Damon (Foiled Again) Stoudamire, and winces. He believes "90 to 95 percent" of off-the-court transgressions involving pro athletes, from DUIs to bar fights to far more serious altercations, can be avoided with improved personal security.
Said Davis, "Athletes will spend $4 million on a house, $300,000 on a car, $150,000 on a necklace or a platinum Rolex -- and they'll insure all of those things. But they won't insure themselves: by getting the right kind of security, by trusting someone who has the guts to stand up to them and make a judgment call about what's best for their well-being. And I can't understand why."
At the moment, it's a very valid question -- and you have to wonder whether a certain fallen star is wondering the same thing.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Silver sounds off weekly on SI.com.
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