The Professional Athlete as Target: 'Am I Next?'

At a cost of about $75,000 a year, Thompson said, a professional athlete can hire a trained security personnel team to protect him and his family. For an additional $25,000 to $40,000, he can add a trained guard dog to watch his home. Additional security measures Thompson recommends include living on a gated property complete with security cameras so that every face entering the grounds can be identified.

Some, including Sally Simpson, chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, believe the extra security might be a tad overboard. Although she believes increasing security is always a reasonable response following a case like Taylor's, Simpson doesn't think athletes are any more vulnerable than the general public.

"These stories put a high level of fear among the people who identify with the victims," Simpson said. "That's why athletes are dealing with this fear right now. They identify with Sean Taylor. Although it behooves them to be extra cautious, I don't think the risks are terribly higher for athletes than anyone else."

Even if they aren't targeted more often than the average man on the street, extra security might provide a sense of calm for professional athletes. After all, we live in an Internet-driven society, and all sorts of personal information -- someone's phone number, address or even a satellite image of his house -- can be found on the Web. And once your salary increases, Ogunleye says, so does the anxiety.

"The more you make, the more you have to lose," the defensive end said. "If I was an undrafted free agent, I probably still would have thought somebody was trying to rob me that night in Miami. But I wouldn't have been as worried about it.

"But as your pay increases, your insecurities increase, too. You worry about people taking what you've worked so hard to have."

A year and a half ago, when Ben Wallace left the Pistons to sign a four-year, $60-million contract with the Bulls, he said he almost immediately felt the target on his back grow larger, both on and off the court.

"If you sign a big contract, everybody knows," Wallace said. "They're going to print it in the paper. It's on ESPN. You can go online and check player salaries and all that. You're a target. We're all targets. You've just got to protect yourself the best way you can."

Even for the chiseled, 6-foot-9, 240-pound Wallace, a man who looks more like a bodyguard than someone who might need one, that could mean adding a security detail. Although Wallace said he doesn't currently have a bodyguard, he added that he "might have one tomorrow" after seeing what happened to Walker, Curry, Robinson and now Taylor over the course of the past six months.

"Professional athletes, most of us came from the streets. We feel like we know the streets and can pretty much protect ourselves," Wallace said. "But now we're in a position where we're being targeted, and the stakes are just too high. So, yeah, you might need that big guy standing next to you for a while."

Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com. Visit Wayne's ESPN Fan Page at myespn.go.com/wdrehs. ESPN.com senior writer Marc Stein contributed to this story.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...