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NFL doesn't dance around Tampa laws
By ERNEST HOOPER and KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2001
Baltimore Ravens running back Priest Holmes knows where his team is staying in Tampa for the Super Bowl. And he knows what's across the street.
The Tanga Lounge, billed in some quarters as "one of the top adult entertainment hot spots in Tampa," sits across the Courtney Campbell Parkway from the Hyatt Regency Westshore.
"We've been talking about it," Holmes said. "But we have to stay disciplined and try not to get ourselves in certain traps."
The National Football League is driving that point home by making sure the AFC champion Ravens, NFC champion New York Giants and other visiting players know Tampa officials want to take the Triple X out of their Super Bowl XXXV festivities.
On Tuesday, the league office took the unusual step of providing written warnings to all 31 teams and the players union about Tampa's sex-related entertainment.
The NFL fears a public relations nightmare in which one or more players are arrested at a nightclub with nude dancers. Tampa Police Department officials have made it clear they will enforce an ordinance that bans lap dances, requiring dancers to stay 6 feet from customers.
Since the law went into effect in December 1999, more than 200 arrests have been made, but none has been as high profile as last weekend's arrest of two National Hockey League players, Ted Donato and Tyler Bouck of the Dallas Stars, during a raid at Mons Venus.
The NFL faxed its teams a St. Petersburg Times article about the hockey players' arrests along with a one-page warning.
Bouck and Donato were released on $250 bail.
"We saw the arrest reports about the hockey players, so we used that as an example of what's going on down there and what kind of bees' nest we're walking into," said Ravens director of player development Earnest Byner, who handles off-the-field issues for the team. "So we're talking to the guys and trying to get them to accept the responsibility, let them know up front what they're dealing with. Then by doing that, hopefully they'll make the proper decision."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he could not recall the last time NFL security had to warn teams about a sex-related issue. The last time the Super Bowl was in Tampa, in 1991, the concern was the Gulf War "and potential impact on the game," Aiello said.
This is not the first time a team has shown concern about Tampa's adult entertainment establishments.
In the regular NFL season, Minnesota Vikings coach Denny Green altered his team's schedule for its trip to Tampa. He reduced the free time allowed to about one hour and required the players to attend a team dinner. In previous trips, the players could have dinner on their own and had several hours of free time before a 9 p.m. team meeting the day before the game.
The New York Times reported Thursday that when the Giants played in the 1991 Super Bowl, team representatives covertly followed several players to make sure they stayed out of trouble. One of the players was linebacker Lawrence Taylor, known for his partying, the New York Times said, citing several people in the NFL with knowledge of that practice.
"You heard rumors that some guys were being followed Super Bowl week," former Giants running back Ottis Anderson, who played in the game, told the New York Times. "But to be honest, I think Lawrence spent most of the time sleeping in his hotel room."
Although the league and the teams have issued warnings this time, Ravens coach Brian Billick said he and his staff can do only so much.
"We're going to tell them about specific areas that are a concern, but these are grown men," Billick said. "All we can do is educate them to the environment they're in. We're going to spend a great deal of time -- and the league will as well -- to make sure that they understand what that environment is because Tampa does have a reputation for that."
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