NBA not investigating players getting freebies at alleged mob strip club

Tuesday, December 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) -- The revelation that alleged mobsters gave NBA players free alcohol and strippers won't prompt the league to open an investigation into the matter. The league said Tuesday it had not started any formal investigation into the NBA players linked to the case of the Atlanta strip club the Gold Club, whose owner has been indicted on racketeering and prostitution charges.

The New York Daily News reported that Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Dennis Rodman were "comped" for thousands of dollars worth of entertainment and drinks at the club. The newspaper quoted unidentified federal sources and investigative records as saying that during five nights in April 1998, "Patrick Ewing and friends" ran up a bill of $2,233, including a $991 tab in a single night at the club.

Oakley, who left the New York Knicks in June 1998 and now plays for Toronto, was "comped" for $1,313 and $665 on two nights in June 1997, while Rodman paid $411, $516, $786, $895, $926, and $946in so-called "funny money" called Gold Bucks during visits from 1995-98, the newspaper said. No athletes were named in the indictment and none faces allegations of wrongdoing.

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said the league was continuing to monitor developments. "We have not started any investigation," McIntyre said. NBA players are occasionally advised by the league's security office to stay away from certain establishments where criminal activity is suspected, and the standard player contract forbids behavior that is "materially prejudicial or detrimental" to the league.

Rodman's agent, Steve Chasman, said the league office had not contacted him or his client regarding the strip club indictment. Calls to agents for Ewing and Oakley were not returned. Steven Kaplan, owner of the Gold Club, and 14 other defendants were indicted Nov. 4 on charges including prostitution, racketeering, money-laundering, loan-sharking and credit-card fraud. They have pleaded innocent.

The government contends the Gold Club was a virtual brothel that corrupted police, provided dancers as prostitutes for regular clients and skimmed millions from the cash flow to buy protection from the New York-based Gambino organized crime family. The indictment says that in April or May 1997, Kaplan and the other defendants transported female dancers from the Gold Club to the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, S.C., so dancers could "perform a lesbian sex show and have sex with members of a professional basketball team."

The indictment did not identify the team, but the Knicks were in Charleston in April 1997 for a playoff training camp at the College of Charleston. The team has held training camps in Charleston since 1991. Club employees arranged for dancers to have sex with celebrity clients -- including unidentified professional basketball players --in the club's private rooms, at local hotels or on trips outside Atlanta, the indictment said.

Two Delta Air Lines employees were charged with helping arrange those trips for reduced rates in exchange for club services and other considerations. Lori Hamamoto, a spokeswoman for the Knicks, said the team would have no comment.