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Beneath the Planet of Why I Hate Pro Football

by Jim Provenzano
Sports Complex
Bay Area Reporter

Percentage of professional football players who have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes in 1996 and 1997: 21

Number of Super Bowl players on either the Titans or Rams who have been arrested: 13

Hall of Fame

September: An arrest warrant is issued for former NFL wide receiver Bobby Duckworth in connection with an alleged rape and assault near San Diego.

November: Safety Greg Cox of the San Francisco 49ers is charged with rape and false imprisonment in connection with an attack on a 21-year-old woman he met at a Monterey, California, diner.

December: Craig Heyward of the New Orleans Saints faces assault charges brought by two women.

December: Lewis Billups, one of 20 Cincinnati Bengals, charged with the gang rape of a woman in 1990, is charged in Sanford, Florida with drugging and raping a woman, videotaping the sex, and demanding $20,000 to not show the tape to her husband. Publicity from the arrest brought several calls to Seminole County Sheriff's offices from women who claimed similar ordeals with Billups.

December: Larry Kinnebrew, former Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills running back, is indicted in Cincinnati on two charges of rape. Charges were later dismissed after two trials ended in hung juries.

October: Rape charges are dropped against Atlanta Falcons defensive back Bruce Pickens after a woman withdrew her complaint that he had assaulted her in his apartment.

March: Joey Browner, former safety for the Minnesota Vikings, is charged with third-degree rape in Minneapolis. Charges are later dismissed.

March: Doug Dennison, former Dallas Cowboys running back, is sentenced to six months in jail in Phoenix for making sexual advances toward two teenage girls.

June: Hall of Fame football player, former sports telecaster and celebrity O.J. Simpson is charged with murdering his ex-wife and her friend. The case draws unprecedented national media attention. Reports emerge that Simpson has a history of repeated attacks against the woman as well as a previous wife.

June: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tim Barnett is charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child after a 14-year- old hotel maid tells Milwaukee authorities that he pulled her onto his hotel room bed and ran his hands over her clothing.

September: Kansas City Chiefs running back John Stephens is charged with raping a woman at a Kansas City hotel. He was released by the team the day of the alleged rape.

November: Buffalo Bills running back Carwell Gardner is charged with assault after hitting his fiancee during a fight.

January: Accusations of sexual harassment are leveled against Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green and defensive backs coach Richard Solomon.

February: Harvey Williams, Los Angeles Raiders running back, is charged in Overland Park, Kansas with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery after an alleged confrontation with his ex-wife.

July: Star Minnesota Vikings quarterback Warren Moon is arrested in Houston and charged with misdemeanor assault after he slapped his wife, choking her "nearly to the point of unconsciousness." Moon is later acquitted after his wife refuses to testify. A few months previously, Moon had been charged with sexual assault by a Vikings cheerleader in a case that was settled out of court.

August: Stacey Spikes, Miami Dolphins running back, is arrested and charged with assaulting his wife. She publicly accuses him of a five-year pattern of domestic abuse.

August: Four New Orleans Saints players are accused of rape by a 30-year-old La Crosse woman. Prosecutors acknowledge that the players had sex with her at the team's training dorm, but refused to press charges due to lack of evidence the sex was not consensual.

August: Frank Duncan, former San Diego Charger, is sentenced to eight years in prison for beating his girlfriend in January 1995. He was acquitted of additional charges of kidnapping. Duncan reportedly threatened to "do to her what O.J. did to Nicole."

August: Dan Williams of the Denver Broncos is accused of sexual harassment by his girlfriend, who claimed he threatened her over the phone after she informed him that she was pregnant.

August: Seattle Seahawks star running back Chris Warren pleads not guilty to charges of misdemeanor assault after allegedly grabbing a woman at a bar in Renton. Charges are later dropped when the case is settled out of court.

September: Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson, is arrested after allegedly punching his girlfriend, who was four months pregnant at the time.

October: Former NFL lineman Louis Sharpe is arrested in suburban Phoenix after a Halloween party and charged with disorderly conduct, sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest.

January: Seattle Seahawks players Lamar Smith and Jeff Blacksheer are sued by a Kirkland, Washington woman who claimed they sexually assaulted her. Authorities had declined to prosecute the case, calling it "unprovable."

January: James Harris, Minnesota Vikings defensive end, pleads guilty to third-degree assault for beating his wife.

April: Cornelius Bennett, linebacker for Indianapolis, convicted of reduced charge of rape and sexual abuse.

September: Christian Peter, defensive lineman for the Giants, pleaded no contest to sexual assault, guilty of assault.

November: Jake Plummer (quarterback, Arizona) pleaded no contest to four counts of sexual abuse.

July: Deion Sanders (defensive back, Dallas) guilty: reduced charge of aggravated assault, no contest to battery.

August: Lamar Thomas (wide receiver, Miami) guilty: aggravated battery.

February: James Pruitt, a wide receiver who played three seasons with the Miami Dolphins in the 1980s, was one of four people arrested by federal drug agents in Columbus, Georgia, who also seized four kilograms of cocaine and $27,000 cash. The arrests by a narcotics task force occurred at Pruitt's Columbus home. Pruitt, 35, was charged with drug trafficking. Pruitt played with the Dolphins from 1986 to 1988.

May: Convicted drug dealer Rickey Brownlee convinced NFL wide receiver Tony Martin to bring thousands of dollars in cash to pay his attorney, according to taped phone calls played in Brownlee and Martin's money-laundering trial. The calls were routinely taped by detention center administrators, who notify inmates of the recording policy. Prosecutors maintain the cash came from Brownlee's drug transactions. Martin, who signed a $14.2 million contract with the Miami Dolphins, has been friends since childhood with Brownlee, dubbed the "da mayor" of Opa-locka.

July: New York Jets All-Pro offensive tackle John "Jumbo" Elliott, 34, and his teammate Jason Fabini, 24, had their hearings continued until September 13 at Long Beach City Court, according to their attorney. Meanwhile, former Jet and current Cincinnati Bengal Matt O'Dwyer, 27, was arraigned in Mineola County Court. All three players were arrested at Bogart's bar after a fight that sent two police officers to the hospital. Elliott has been charged with simple assault, public lewdness and harassment, while Fabini faces a disorderly conduct charge. The charges against O'Dwyer: counts of second-degree assault, criminal mischief, harassment, and disorderly conduct. A total of 21 police officers, from two separate police departments, were required to subdue them. Elliott, allegedly urinated in the sink of the women's bathroom, then hit a female patron. A cuffed O'Dwyer, seated in the back of a police car, kicked out a car window, sending a spray of glass that caught two Long Beach police officers in the eyes and sent them to the hospital.

Special college addition:
October: In Laramie, Wyoming, one of the state's most anticipated court cases – the trial of Aaron McKinney, accused of helping kill Matthew Shepard – had to wait: The University of Wyoming football team was playing its big rival. Fans attending the October 23 night game between Wyoming and Colorado State took all available motel rooms for that weekend, leaving potential jurists no place to sleep.

December: Cecil Collins, the jailed running back of the Miami Dolphins, is accused of harassing and stalking two more women. Collins is awaiting extradition to Louisiana for a probation violation. The 23-year-old rookie was arrested this month and accused of breaking into the apartment of neighbor Tina Nolte, 28, a married woman he had met in the complex's gym and tried to date. Miriam Dandeneau, a 25-year-old mother of two boys who also resides in the complex, said she filed a complaint with the office manager July 19. John Dandeneau, her husband, said Collins pulled down his swim trunks and exposed himself to his wife within view of two teen-age girls.

December: Orlando Brown of the Cleveland Browns, after being accidentally hit in the eye by a referee's flag, assaults the referee, knocking him to the ground.

December: A 300-pound former NFL lineman who had become a coach for a Florida high school has been indicted on charges he helped run a major drug operation. Jeffery Esters, 30, a defensive tackle who played for the New York Jets, the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers, was arrested as he left his girlfriend's Hollywood home. Esters allegedly conspired to ship more than 168 kilograms of powdered cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack cocaine and 1 kilogram of heroin to the Pittsburgh area, according to Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

December: Indianapolis Colts defensive back Steve Muhammad had a pretrial hearing on charges he beat his wife just days before she died from labor complications. A judge also said during a hearing that Muhammad cannot have contact with his wife's son, Eric, 6, whom he allegedly attacked with a plastic baseball bat. Nichole Muhammad died November 7 after injuries from a car accident forced her into premature labor; the couple's baby was stillborn. The Colts rookie had been arrested 10 days earlier on misdemeanor battery charges. The defensive back has remained free on $30,000 bond.

December: Denver Broncos starting free safety Darrius Johnson has been charged with slapping a stripper at a topless nightclub. Johnson, 27, was taken into custody, booked and released after being issued a municipal summons charging him with misdemeanor assault on the 19-year-old woman. The incident took place at Shotgun Willie's, an upscale topless bar that bills itself as "a gentleman's club."

December: Rae Carruth, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers, arrested for murder, allegedly shot his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams. He escaped, and was found and arrested after hiding in the trunk of a car. Prosecutors are requesting execution. Former lawyers for O.J. Simpson represent the accused.

January: Luis Sharpe, a former Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman with a long history of drug arrests and rehabilitation attempts, was arrested for allegedly possessing crack cocaine drug paraphernalia, police said. The arrest came after undercover Phoenix police officers spotted Sharpe in the company of two men who appeared to be conspiring to waylay the 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound former athlete, said Maricopa County Sheriff's office spokesman Sergeant Don Rosenberger.

January: Former football great Jim Brown was sentenced to six months in jail for refusing to accept terms of his probation for vandalizing his wife's car. Municipal Court Judge Dale S. Fischer stayed the jail term pending appeal. Defense attorney Frank Williams Jr. asked the judge to reconsider Brown's misdemeanor vandalism sentence, saying conditions of probation that included domestic violence counseling and community service were inappropriate. The judge also ordered the former Cleveland Browns star to spend 40 days on a work crew cleaning up streets or do 400 hours of community service, pay $1,800 in fines, and serve three years' probation.

"We are talking about J.B. getting on his knees and doing a little cotton-picking or a little dancing like a lot of folks," Brown said at an earlier court appearance. He was rebuffed December 14 in an attempt to disqualify Fischer, accusing the judge of bias against black men because she was a leader of the Los Angeles chapter of American Inns of Court, a legal group he described as a "radical and extremist group of white upper-class women who target men of color, including Jim Brown."

January: O.J. Simpson goes golfing.

Sources: Associated Press, Newsweek, ESPN, New York Post, the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, Don Yeager's "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL"