The Word Is Out: Your Friends Can Hurt You
Last fall, Rayful Edmond III, the alleged leader of a murderous Washington, D.C., drug gang, was observed fraternizing with two Georgetown University basketball players, John Turner and Alonzo Mourning. The athletes were interviewed by FBI and DEA agents and warned to stay away from Edmond. “Stupid and dangerous,” Georgetown President Rev. Timothy Healy said recently of the athletes’ association with Edmond. “Dangerous as all get-out.”
Last summer, Richard Mark Perry, a twice-convicted sports fixer who used the name Sam Perry, coached a New York City summer-league basketball team that featured players from colleges such as Seton Hall and Nevada-Las Vegas. Perry socialized with the players, provided financial assistance to a former UNLV recruit and became an unpaid official of the Topeka Sizzlers, a Continental Basketball Association club with ties to the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
For almost a decade, Cincinnati Reds Manager Pete Rose palled around with Tommy Gioiosa, a bodybuilder who recently was indicted on charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and who allegedly placed illegal bets on sporting events. Due partly to his associations with Gioiosa and others, Rose is being investigated by federal authorities and the baseball commissioner’s office. “I have one problem,” Rose recently told a magazine writer. " ... I have not been very good about picking my friends.”
Questionable associations by high-profile sports figures have been a longstanding problem in college and professional athletics. Today, concerns about these associations have heightened because of an increase in drug use, gambling activities and player salaries, according to sports and law-enforcement officials interviewed by The Washington Post.
“We look at associations as the beginning of something down the line,” NFL director of security Warren Welsh said. " ... In terms of gambling, drugs, other criminal activity, we feel (it) all starts back hero the associations.”
“This is a problem that’s getting worse all the time,” said a gambling expert who once worked for the FBI. “With all the money being spent on gambling and drugs, athletes -- on all levels -- must be on guard against people who seem undesirable.”
But who should be deemed undesirable? Are people with past law-enforcement problems destined to be troublemakers in the future? Are sports figures who associate with “undesirables” woefully naive -- or are they up to no good themselves?
Georgetown Coach John Thompson focused national attention on the issue April 27 when he told ABC-TV’s Ted Koppel that Mourning, a star freshman center, and Turner, a sophomore forward, had socialized with Edmond at a popular Washington nightclub. Edmond recently was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of homicide, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other drug-related offenses.
Turner has known Edmond since their childhood in Glenarden, Md. Mourning met Edmond while playing in several recreational leagues in Washington, according to Thompson. There is no indication Turner and Mourning were involved in any illegal activities.
Although he termed the association with Edmond “stupid,” Healy said it was understandable. “You’ve forgotten what babies they are,” the Georgetown president said in an interview. “I mean, they may be tough street kids, but they’re 17, they’re 18. One of the things you’ve got at 17 or 18 is no sense of consequences. ... I think it’s frightening. The whole drug scene is frightening.”
With the increase in drug and gambling activity in the United States, law-enforcement officials have expressed fears that athletes will agree to fix contests in return for money or drugs. “If you’re involved with drugs, you’re in some way involved with the richest, most powerful criminal cartel in history,” federal drug czar William J. Bennett said in an interview. “You’re in that web somewhere. You might be blackmailed, asked to shave points or throw a game.”
UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian learned from a Time magazine reporter recently that two of his players were fraternizing with a twice-convicted sports fixer. In 1974, Richard Perry was convicted of federal charges related to fixing harness track races in New York. In 1984, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit sports bribery in the Boston College basketball point-shaving scheme.
Perry’s association with guard Moses Scurry, center David Butler and a much-ballyhooed UNLV recruit, Lloyd Daniels, raises a question: do coaches need to be more vigilant about their athletes’ off-hours activities?
For several years, “Sam Perry” coached a New York City summer-league team that featured prominent players such as Butler, Scurry and Seton Hall guard Gerald Greene. Perry bought some of his players meals, gave them money and helped support the most promising prospect of all: Daniels.
A high-school dropout who could barely read, Daniels was considered the finest basketball player to emerge from New York City in two decades. In early 1986, Daniels told Perry he was interested in playing for UNLV. Perry flew with Daniels to Las Vegas, paying the player’s airfare.
Daniels signed with UNLV and moved into an apartment arranged by Perry. “I help a lot of kids,” Perry told The Post some months later. “It’s not only Lloyd. I mean, I don’t have to go into it, but I’ve helped a lot of kids. I’ve never taken anything from these kids, money-wise or anything. I like basketball.”
After a newspaper article implicated him in alleged NCAA rules violations, “Sam Perry” described his relationship with Daniels in a sworn affidavit:
” ... I have let Lloyd Daniels and his friends reside with my wife and I have given Lloyd money whenever he asked for it as long as I felt it was for something he really needed. I have helped him obtain transportation in the form of automobiles on different occasions and helped him with travel expenses, clothes and money. I will continue to do so and it is frankly no one’s business what I do for Lloyd Daniels and I really resent being asked about it. ... “
Tarkanian said he knew Richard Perry only as Sam Perry, a New York summer-league coach who worked in commodities and wintered in Las Vegas. Tarkanian said he was aware that Perry “hung out” at casinos. “But everybody does here in town,” he said. “That’s not unusual.”
In February 1987, Tarkanian suspended Daniels from his program after he was arrested for attempting to purchase crack cocaine. Perry paid Daniels’ bail -- $1,500. “Sam’s good people,” Daniels said at the time.
Daniels pleaded guilty to a misdeameanor charge and underwent treatment at two drug-rehabilitation centers. He was suspended by the Topeka Sizzlers of the CBA for drug abuse and from a pro team in New Zealand for excessive drinking. Two weeks ago, he was seriously wounded by gunfire in New York City in what police believe to be a drug dispute.
After Time reported last month that Sam Perry was really Richard Perry, a convicted sports fixer, Tarkanian said he ordered Scurry and Butler to disassociate themselves from Perry. Tarkanian, in a recent interview, said he does not fault Perry for associating with his players.
“Put yourself in Sam Perry’s position,” he said. “Obviously, it would have been best for us that he never associated with us. But what’s he going to do with his life, Sam Perry? Obviously, he should stay away from everybody. But if you’re Sam Perry, what are you going to do? Lock yourself away from everybody?”
Tarkanian, the most successful active major college basketball coach, continued: “If we know somebody has a problem, we’ll keep him away from our kids, certainly. But how do you know when somebody has a problem? How did John Thompson know? I mean, how do you know?” Perry declined to be interviewed for this article.
Through his relationship with Daniels, Perry became friendly with Bernie Glannon, the Topeka Sizzlers’ owner. Glannon was mightily impressed with Perry’s knowledge of basketball. “He is the biggest basketball fan I’ve ever met,” Glannon said. “He watches -- on satellite -- numerous games a day. ... Hell, he could name players until you were blue in the face.”
Last summer, Glannon appointed Perry the Sizzlers’ unpaid director of player personnel. Perry coached at a Sizzlers tryout camp in early October, then, two weeks later, had lunch at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas with Glannon and Bill Bertka, a Lakers assistant coach.
Glannon, who now operates the Las Vegas Silver Streaks of the World Basketball League, said he has not disassociated himself from Perry since learning of his criminal background. “I believe his motives at this time in his life are different than they were previously,” Glannon said. “He’s a basketball jock. ... I trust Sam Perry. I like Sam Perry. Everybody says, ‘Bernie, you’re crazy out of your mind.’ ”
Sports leagues have always had concerns about questionable associations. In the 1940s, Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was suspended one season for associating with gamblers. In the ‘60s, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath was ordered to sell his interest in a restaurant frequented by gamblers and hoodlums. In the ‘70s, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain was suspended for half a season for consorting with gamblers.
More recently, in 1985, LSU basketball coach Dale Brown said he was disheartened to learn that a friend, Stan Rothe of Los Angeles, operated a football gambling-tip service and twice had been imprisoned for receiving stolen property and violating parole. A year earlier, Rothe had assisted Brown in the recruitment of Los Angeles high-school star John Williams, now of the Washington Bullets.
After a drug scandal rocked the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1984 and ’85, then-baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth ordered the 26 major-league clubs to ban clubhouse access to non-essential personnel. The policy was implemented by most major-league managers. But not Pete Rose.
In 1986 and early ’87, the Cincinnati Reds manager defied Ueberroth’s directive by allowing friends into his clubhouse office, both at Riverfront Stadium and on the road. One visitor was Gioiosa. Another was Paul Janszen, a bodybuilder who reportedly has told federal investigators that in 1987 he placed sports bets for Rose totaling $8,000 to $16,000 a day. Rose has said he did not bet illegally on sports events.
Early in 1987, Ueberroth decided to take some action, according to a baseball source. Before several games, including one at Shea Stadium in New York, Al Williams, a baseball security representative, walked into Rose’s office and ordered his friends to leave.
Ueberroth later confronted Rose. “He told Pete he had to shape up,” the source said. “Pete didn’t like it; he wanted the clubhouse to be the manager’s domain.”
Today, Rose reportedly is the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation in Cincinnati that is examining whether he paid taxes on all of his earnings. A separate inquiry by Ueberroth’s successor, Bart Giamatti, has focused on Rose’s alleged gambling activities and associations, according to sources.
Giamatti has scheduled a hearing for Rose. If Rose is found to have bet on baseball games, he could be suspended for one year. If he is found to have wagered on his own team, he could be suspended for life. Giamatti also could take action against Rose for associating with undesirables, such as alleged bookmakers and drug dealers.
Bill Bergesch, the Reds’ general manager during the ’86 and ’87 seasons, said recently he had difficulty getting Rose to comply with the commissioner’s directive. “We tried our best to keep everyone out of our clubhouse,” he said. “Of course, with Pete sometimes you had to overlook those things because of the great popularity he does enjoy. Pete had so many friends it’s just almost impossible to enforce (rules) in quite the same way you would normally.”
Bergesch said he had no reason to believe any of Rose’s friends were involved in illegal activities. “They were introduced to me as business associates,” he said. “They always had a reason for being there. They were delivering his car to him. Or they were to pick his car up to get the oil changed. Or they were picking him up after the game.”
The four principal sports leagues -- the NFL, NHL, NBA and major-league baseball -- annually warn players against associating with anyone who has a criminal record.
The leagues maintain liaisons with law-enforcement officials in each of their franchise cities.
“In so many cases, it’s not only what the player really does, it’s the perception,” said the NFL’s Welsh, a former FBI agent. " ... We’re not a police agency. We’re not ducking behind trees. But once (an association) comes to our attention, you sit down with a player or a coach, whoever it might be, and just point out (that) ... we’re all part of a very public activity. How does this appear?”
Over the last 20 years, there have been two known attempts to fix NFL games. In 1971, a Houston Oilers center, Jerry Sturm, told league officials he rejected an offer of $30,000 to mishandle snaps during three games. In the late ‘70s, a defensive back whose identity is unknown told league officials he was approached in a bar to fix NFL games.
Today, it is unlikely a player would be approached so directly, Welsh said.
“There’s a level of sophistication that we don’t find the traditional hands-on of just somebody coming up to a player and saying, ‘Here’s $100,000 and I want you to do this,’ ” he said. " ... They’re going to use different layers of their operation.
“The first layer could be a pretty innocent (person) himself, a real sports fan, somebody that has rapport (with the athlete), whether it’s through weightlifting or some other hobby that a particular player has; there’s some way where he’s made the inroad.
“Then, as that comfort level sets in, we go to the next layer of this organized activity. And it probably is going to take a good deal of time to develop, to try to get somebody in your camp.”
John Thompson learned from a variety of sources last fall that Mourning and Turner had been associating with Edmond. Thompson said he “sent the word out on the street” that he wanted to talk with Edmond, an avid Hoyas follower. Before long, Edmond visited the coach’s office. “I tried to make sure he knew the goals and objectives of my kids,” Thompson said, “and (tried to) make it very clear to him that I didn’t want anything going on with my kids.”
Edmond is being held without bail at D.C Jail. What does he have to say about his association with Mourning and Turner? “I’ll talk about this if my lawyer says it’s okay,” Edmond said the other evening behind a plate-glass window at D.C. Jail.
Edmond’s lawyer, William Murphy of Baltimore, said he does not want his client to discuss his relationship with Mourning and Turner. “I can’t see any profit to him,” Murphy said. “I can see a tremendous downside, though.”
In the end, Healy suggested, no one should be suprised that two young Georgetown Hoyas were fraternizing with an alleged cocaine kingpin. This is Washington, after all -- a city with a far-reaching drug scene.
“That’s a whole world and a whole culture,” Healy concluded. “There’s so much money in it. You know, I think you could seduce Mother Teresa if you worked hard enough.”