Athletes at Risk: Leagues, Players Scramble to Stay Safe

The group had visited a nightclub where a group of men were giving Tinsley's friends a hard time about the money they made, says Sgt. Paul Thompson, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Pacers equipment manager Joe Qatato was treated for minor injuries and released from Methodist Hospital. No one had been arrested late Sunday.

Wary even of bodyguards

The NFL provides free security checks of players' homes upon request and regularly holds seminars on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud and extortion.

Major League Baseball, meanwhile, employs at least five members of law enforcement who are on call to provide security in each of the 30 cities with a team.

Kevin Hallinan, MLB's security director for 21 years until his recent retirement, says the league encourages players to use those free resources rather than hire bodyguards who may or may not be trustworthy. Such security also is available to players in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where many Latino players have offseason homes.

Hallinan says he discourages players from hiring their own bodyguards "because in many instances they hire their brother-in-law or a friend of a friend. If you think you're being stalked, we're going to take an interest and the price is going to be right."

Chicago Bulls forward Joe Smith says he had personal bodyguards when he entered the NBA 12 seasons ago as the No. 1 overall draft pick but no longer uses them.

"I think that drew more attention than just me being out by myself, so I just kind of went away from that a little bit," says Smith, who made $12 million last season.

Hallinan says MLB works with stalking expert John Lane of Los Angeles and during the last two decades has had about eight incidents that required full-time protection for a player or assistance from the FBI.

For example, Hallinan says, "We had a guy who was an ex-convict who had an infatuation for one of our players, and this guy had done some serious time for serious crimes. He was calling and showed up in the neighborhood where the player lived.

"It took a lot of resources," Hallinan says, "but we ended up getting him. He went back to jail."

Hallinan says his top priority was telling players, "It's very, very important to notify us if their homes have been broken into or vandalized in any way."

Sean Taylor's home was broken into Nov. 17. He had not played the Sunday before he was shot because of an injury and had told the Redskins he was in Miami to check on his house after the initial break-in.

When burglaries or home intrusion occurred with MLB players, Hallinan says, "We would do an assessment of his property, working with the local police, and make sure we put something new into the game, whether it was an alarm system, a German shepherd, whatever. We were going to change something about the look of that house so the burglars would believe they couldn't come back."

The NFL, Aiello says, has always encouraged players to report to their teams and NFL security "any threat or incident of victimization." He says league security wasn't notified about the first break-in at Taylor's home.

'It's a lose-lose situation'

This year began on a deadly note for pro athletes. In the early hours of New Year's Day, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed when his rented Hummer limo vehicle was sprayed by gunfire.

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