NEW YORK (AP) _ When Joe Smith, Jerry Stackhouse and the rest of the NBA’s class of ’95 gathered for their rookie orientation session, they got advice on how to eat right, how to handle newfound wealth _ and that when a woman says ``no,″ she means it.
For the first time, date rape was a subject at the mandatory three-day session. The teachers were Sgt. Susan Morley and Detective Raymond Lane, veteran New York Police Department sex crime investigators and lecturers specializing in date and gang rape.
When the 67 NBA rookies filed into an auditorium in Orlando, Fla., for the Rookie Transitional Training Program this September, Morley was skeptical. ``I wasn’t sure that we would be able to get through to them,″ she said.
Morley felt they might hold back because she’s a woman. She assured them that as a cop and a woman who grew up with eight brothers, nothing they could say would make her blush.
That didn’t stop them from trying. ``They really tested me,″ she said.
They talked openly for 90 minutes about gang rape, peer pressure, date rape and how men and women give different sexual cues.
``You could tell that the questions were definitely directed at real situations or things that had come close to happening to them or someone they knew,″ Lane said.
One rookie asked if it counts if a woman is drunk, Morley said, and another wanted to know whether he could get into trouble if a woman asks him to stop kissing her and he keeps going.
``I had to tell them, `Just because a woman is drunk, just because she goes to your room _ going to your room is not consent,‴ Morley said.
Morley and Lane also provided slides that said ``no″ in 13 different languages. The message: ``Any way it’s said, at any time, no means no,″ Morley said.
The advice may seem obvious. But Thomas Jackson, a University of Arkansas psychiatry professor who has given rape prevention lectures to dozens of NCAA athletic departments in the past decade, says it’s not surprising that the new pros may lack simple dating skills.
``The typical athlete from an early age has led a very focused, disciplined and therefore sheltered lifestyle,″ says Jackson. ``They often don’t have typical heterosexual dating skills that other non-athletes have had time to develop.″
Developing these skills once they get to the pros can be difficult, with female ``groupies″ readily available.
A recent study by Jackson found there was no higher incidence of rape and sexual assault cases among athletes than non-athletes, but that among athletes, more football and basketball players were charged.
In the five years before a 1994 Northwestern University study, 54 professional and 85 college athletes were charged with rape.
Though many college programs offer seminars on the subject, Jackson says up until now it was virtually unheard of in the pros. ``I think it’s long overdue and I commend the NBA for dealing with it,″ he said.
Despite repeated requests, NBA spokeswoman Teri Washington said no one was available to discuss the date rape seminar.
The advice Morley and Lane gave to the rookies was simple: Get to know your date before getting into a situation that can lead to sexual miscommunication; stop group situations before they get out of hand _ even if it makes you unpopular with teammates; and realize that even an allegation can ruin a career.
Of all the recent headline-making cases, Morley said, ``The Richie Parker case really hit home with them.″
Parker, a star 6-foot-5 forward at Manhattan Center High School, forced a 15-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him in a hallway of their school in February 1994. He then lost his scholarship to Seton Hall and was rejected by three other top basketball schools.
Parker, who publicly apologized to his victim and offered her a share of any future pro earnings, is attending an Arizona community college but is not playing basketball. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felony sexual abuse and is on five years’ probation.
Morley and Lane hope other pro sports will follow the NBA’s lead and that mandatory, preventive programs will filter down to all college and high school athletic departments.
``It’s not the only place it’s needed,″ Lane said, ``but it’s a good place to start.″
End Adv For Weekend Editions Nov. 11-12