From a Sports Illustrated writer on cnnsi.com:
Coddled existence can skew an athlete's perspective
Some years ago I was in the locker room of a professional sports team the night it won the championship. The champagne and beer had been flowing for a while when I began talking with one of the players in a small side area just off the main locker room. One of the team's female staff members stepped between us and gave the player a friendly, congratulatory hug and peck on the cheek. "That's all the kiss I get?" the player said. "That's not a kiss."
He pulled her toward him and tried to kiss her on the lips, but she resisted, leaning her head away. "C'mon now," she said, trying to break free. She was laughing at first, but her smile faded when he kept his muscular arms wrapped around her. "Stop it. Really. Stop it!" she said. Only the three of us were in the narrow area, and just as I was about to intervene, one of the player's teammates walked by and saw what was going on. He stepped in and with just a couple of words persuaded the player to let go of the woman, who hurriedly left the locker room.
It doesn't take a crystal ball to envision what might have happened if that incident had taken place somewhere private instead of in an area where there were dozens of other people nearby. It might very well have ended the way a 19-year-old Colorado woman alleges her encounter with Lakers star Kobe Bryant ended several weeks ago -- with a famous, powerful man mistaking a woman's friendliness for desire and forcing himself on her.
I don't know if that's what happened between Bryant and that young woman in the hotel room. The two of them are probably the only ones who will ever truly know whether it was sexual assault, as she says, or consensual sex, as he says. But I do know that all too often this is how it happens with sports figures and women. Bryant wouldn't be the first athlete who was unable or unwilling to recognize the difference between warmth and lust displayed by a member of the opposite sex.
Any number of reasons can explain that, but one of the primary ones is that despite their glamorous lifestyle, professional athletes are, in a sense, very sheltered people. An NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball player doesn't always interact with women, in particular, in ways as varied as other men do. It's oversimplifying only a little bit to say that in the minds of many male pro athletes, there are two kinds of women: the ones who want to sleep with them and the ones who want to sleep with them, but don't know it yet.
Consider the range of women with which a typical millionaire athlete interacts. There are groupies and other adoring females whom they see at the player exit after games, or in the hotel lobby, or in restaurants and nightclubs. There are the women who serve them in one capacity or another, as masseuses, personal assistants, publicists. There are female members of the media who, no matter how professionally they carry themselves, are in the locker room when the players are in various states of undress. All of these women want something, in one way or another, from the athlete. Like most of the men in the athlete's life, they all have reason to want a positive relationship with him.
It's not hard, then, to see how the athlete begins to think that all men want to be like him and all women want to be with him. This in no way excuses the athlete who has his way with a woman by force, but it does help explain how an athlete can have such a terrible lapse in judgment. Bryant, for example, has probably never dealt with a female supervisor or had a woman as a co-worker. Other than his mother and sisters, there probably have been precious few women in Bryant's life since he turned pro seven years ago who were even indifferent to his presence. If Bryant did do what his accuser says he did, it was probably because he thought she was one of the women who wanted him but didn't know it yet.
But no matter what happened that night, Kobe Bryant is not going to jail. With the exception of Mike Tyson, sports celebrities just don't get locked up for their sexual indiscretions. Think Marv Albert and Mark Chmura -- both scandalized, neither incarcerated. If new reports that Bryant's accuser overdosed on pills not long before the incident occurred are true, his defense attorneys will be able to paint her as unstable, and at that point, it's game over. The Memphis Grizzlies have a better chance of winning the NBA title than the Eagle County district attorney has of winning this case.
But that doesn't mean Bryant's life will return to normal. Like most pro athletes, his life hasn't been anything approaching normal for quite some time. That's the problem.
I think it outlines clearly, like Heidi said, we really don't know what they get up to off court. Also, it was reported today that Kobe bought his wife a $4million ring.