The Same ol’ Song & Dance

Culture of adultery is a tradition in pro sports, but when will we cry foul?

By Cory Carlyle

Infidelity is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as ‘the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner.’

Being a professional athlete is defined by yours truly as being someone who has gotten away with everything they have done throughout their lives and either had people look the other way or simply changed the rules to accommodate said person. This is due in no small part to their superior athletic ability.

It really makes no sense that we as a society idolize these athletes from the time they are deemed ‘Blue Chippers’ while actually holding them to a lower moral standard because of the pleasures they can deliver as we live vicariously through them. This seems true whether they drain the last-second shot in the National Basketball Association playoffs, hit the big home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the World Series or, of course, chip in on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters to basically win the green jacket.

The fact that pro athletes spend so much of their time on the road makes their philandering that much easier with their spouses thousands of miles away at home. The upscale hotels where many professional teams stay pride themselves on guest privacy, thereby (consciously or not) acting as an accessory to the act simply known to many as “cheating.”

Is it the money? The fame? Maybe it’s simply the opportunity. According to ESPN The Magazine’s “Player X’ column, there are NBA players ‘working’ more than 15 girls in different cities at the same time.

“I’m telling you, the temptations we players face are crazy,” one anonymous player told the Worldwide Leader in Sports. “You’re seeing things you’ve never seen before; experiencing things you’ve never dreamed of. And the caliber of these women? They’re damn gorgeous. They do up their hair and get their makeup going, they look fine as hell. Our natural instinct is not to grab lunch with her.”

Then there are athletes who go on the record like the Big Aristotle, aka the Shaq Daddy.

“With so many options, a man is likely to sample,” said former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal in his book Shaq Uncut, ironically co-written by a woman, longtime Boston Globe and current columnist Jackie MacMullan. “For many women, outside of that whole, “being faithful” thing, the biggest issue with cheating is the public humiliation of it all. The guys that learn how to keep those indiscretions in the dark usually keep all parties happy.”

Basically what the Diesel is saying is that as long as the Big Aristotle or any pro athlete whose combination of confidence and talent does not embarrass his significant other, everything will be Shaqtacular. It came as little surprise when his marriage to Shaunie ended and she spoke to Essence Magazine, blaming Miami groupies, whom she says are the most “aggressive” she has even seen, and Shaq’s inability to resist temptation.

After Shaunie hired a private investigator to get the dirt on Shaq, they had a very public and very messy divorce. The man who nicknamed himself ‘Superman’ reportedly is on the hook for $10,000 per month in alimony and another $10,000 per month in child support and admitted in his book that he was not the ideal husband.

Steven M. Ortiz, an assistant professor of sociology at Oregon State University, told the audience at the American Sociological Association that a “culture of adultery” permeates professional sports today.

“The majority of the new wives truly didn’t know what they were getting in for,” said Ortiz, who interviewed the wives of 47 different professional athletes in the four major team sports over a four-year period during his 1990s doctoral candidate study at the University of California- Berkeley. “Often they have to learn the ropes from the veteran wives. The wife of a baseball player who has been married and ‘in the league’ for 15 years can be fairly hardened. She has seen, or heard, it all.

“It may be that women who marry the ‘athlete’ more than the ‘man’ tend may be more accepting of their husbands’ affairs,” Ortiz continued. “Not only do they fear losing financial security and the affluent lifestyle, they often possess low self-esteem.”

The Co$t of Cheating

While it is likely the majority of professional athletes are honest and faithful to their wives, it is the perception that most of them are cheaters because many of those who have been caught are some of the most well-known celebrities in the world.

Michael Jordan, he of the six-time National Basketball Association champion Chicago Bulls, star of the 1996 hit film Space Jam, pitchman for products including Nike, McDonald’s, Hanes, Gatorade, Upper Deck, Presbyterian Healthcare and Five Star Fragrances, and 80 percent owner of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, (quietly – at least compared to many others celebrity splits) and wife Juanita divorced in 2006 to the tune of more than $150 million. The settlement even topped those of film director Steven Spielberg ($100 million) and actor Kevin Costner ($80 million). Jordan, as bulletproof as any pro athlete of this generation, still pulled in an estimated $80 million in 2013 according to Forbes.

Pro wrestler Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) saw his divorce details in the press with anyone and everyone learning that ex-wife Linda Hogan pocketing $7.44 million of the couple’s $10.41 million that was held in bank and investment accounts in their divorce settlement. The Hulkster, known for his days as a World Wrestling Entertainment and World Championship Wrestling competitor and roles in movies such as Rocky III, Suburban Commando and No Holds Barred, was left with the remaining $2.97 million. Rumors abound that the reason for the split was Hogan being a ‘serial cheater’ with, according to E!, the final straw being an affair with daughter Brooke’s best friend Christiane Plante.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant managed to rehabilitate his image following being charged with the rape of a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort and remain married to wife Vanessa. But it did not come cheap as he presented her with a stunning 8-carat purple diamond ring worth in the neighborhood of $4 million.

Fast forward to 2011, Vanessa filed for divorce amidst rumors that Kobe had slept with 105 different women during their marriage. She reportedly planned to divorce him four years ago but allegedly was advised by her mother to wait until the 10-year mark to receive half of Kobe’s earnings by state of California law. ESPN Los Angeles reported Vanessa would have received the couple’s three California houses in the divorce. The couple that married in April 2001 miraculously reconciled and announced in January 2013 that they were indeed staying together. By announced, I mean they both took to their social media platforms and literally announced to their fans that everything was going to be all right.

“I am happy to say that Vanessa and I are moving on with our lives together as a family,” Kobe said on his Facebook page. “When the show ends and the music stops, the journey is made beautiful by having that someone to share it with. Thank you all for your support and prayers! Much luv, Mamba out.”

Former Texas Rangers and (sort of ) current New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has become synonymous with cheating by virtue of his battle with Major League Baseball over his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs that landed him a 162-game suspension from arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. A combination of the testimony of Anthony Bosch, the notebooks documenting Rodriguez’s drug protocols, and hundreds of text messages exchanged between the two men were enough to convince Horowitz that Rodriguez “clearly and convincingly’’ committed “multiple violations’’ of baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement.

While A-Rod apparently left a paper trail a mile long for MLB to use in defense of its original 211- game ban, it does not appear that he was much smarter in his personal life as his straying from his wife included one of the most famous pop stars in the world.

Every baseball fan in North Texas (OK, every baseball fan in America) is well aware of the 10 year, $252 million (exactly double the amount of the previous richest sports contract, the $126 million deal Kevin Garnett signed with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves) deal Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers in 2000. Many forget he opted out after the seventh season and signed an even larger deal with the Yankees (10-years, $275 million that was incentive laden to add even more cash based on achieving certain benchmark numbers).

Cynthia Rodriguez’s petition for dissolution of marriage said it “is irretrievably broken because of the Husband’s extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct.” Her lawyer said Rodriguez had a series of affairs and had an “affair of the heart” with pop star Madonna that was the “last straw.” However, A-Rod claimed that whole cheating thing is “immaterial and impertinent and should be stricken.” They would end up with a private settlement.

For as bad as Rodriguez came across in this entire ordeal, his punishment was getting to date film star Cameron Diaz and have her feed him popcorn in front of the entire world during the telecast of Super Bowl XLV played at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.

San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker saw his marriage to Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria come to an end amid rumors of his infidelity that compounded when the stories began to include the possibility that he cheated with the wife of Spurs teammate Brent Barry. In these days of TMZ, that is a tale of such scandalous proportions that it is impossible to keep it under wraps. The Parker-Longoria divorce was finalized in January 2011.

“I don’t know about the marriage thing. We’ll see if there’s somebody there. I’m not in a rush,” Longoria told Good Morning America. “I take, and I took, marriage very seriously. I am Catholic and got married in the church, and so it’s a pretty sacred sacrament, and so I wouldn’t take it lightly. So to go, ‘Yeah, I’ll get married again.’ …I can’t say that.” Since the split, the actress has dated football hunk Mark Sanchez, reality star Ernesto Arguello and musician Eduardo Cruz. Meanwhile, Parker is engaged to French journalist Axelle Francine. Parker announced on Twitter that the couple is expecting a baby.

All that being said, the face of infidelity among pro athletes remains Tiger Woods. His welldocumented flings came to light on that fateful 2009 Thanksgiving weekend when the world’s greatest golfer was exposed as a serial cheater. Names like Rachel Uchitel, Devon James, Jamie Jungers, Holly Sampson, Joslyn James, Jaimee Grubbs and Cori Rist among many others became almost as well known as his wife, Elin Nordegren.

“Hey, it’s, uh. . . it’s Tiger,” Woods infamously said on Grubbs’ voice mail. “Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and, uh, may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. And, um . . . just have it as a number on the voice mail. OK? You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right, bye.”

Earlier that year, Forbes had named Woods as the first athlete to earn $1 billion and by the holiday season, the talk was all about whether or not his wife had tagged him with his 9-iron while he was in an Ambien-induced haze and trying to escape his enraged wife in his Cadillac Escalade.

“I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you,” Woods would say in a press conference at TPC Sawgrass in February 2010. “For all that I have done, I am so sorry. …I had affairs, I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.”

For those keeping score at home, Woods (while reportedly $110 million lighter) had little trouble finding companionship after his inevitable divorce as he has been dating pro skier Lindsey Vonn.

The simple answer to why pro athletes stray?
Because they can.