| ||Tuesday, December 7|
|NEW YORK -- An Atlanta strip club linked to organized crime provided thousands of dollars' worth of strippers and alcohol to professional athletes, including Patrick Ewing, Dennis Rodman and Charles Oakley, the Daily News of New York reported Tuesday.
Professional wrestlers Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Diamond Dallas Page, Lou Sabh, Scott Steiner and Saturn also received free liquor and sex shows, the newspaper said, citing investigative records and unidentified federal sources.
The Gold Club allegedly gave the athletes phony money called "Gold Bucks" that it normally sells to patrons so they can give them to strippers or rent a private VIP Gold Room, the Daily News said. It added that athletes also got free drinks.
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.
According to the 97-page indictment, Kaplan provided strippers on numerous occasions to perform oral sex on pro basketball players inside his Gold Rooms.
However, no athletes were named in the indictment and none faces allegations of wrongdoing.
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, the Daily News reported.
Rodman paid $411, $516, $786, $895, $926, and $946 in Gold Bucks during visits from 1995 to 1998, the newspaper said.
NBA spokesman Chris Brienza has said league rules do not prohibit players from receiving free food and alcohol from restaurants and bars. But the rules do prohibit behavior that is "materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the team or the league."
Brienza declined to talk about the racketeering case, but acknowledged that players getting comped by a reputed mob associate could be of concern. He reiterated a statement that the league was "monitoring the situation.""It's a public place. It's like going to the mall," Oakley said Tuesday night. "You go to the mall to shop, you go there to cool out. What's the big deal?" Rodman's agent, Steve Chasman, said the league office had not contacted him or his client regarding the strip club. Ewing did not speak to reporters prior to the Knicks' game against Golden State on Tuesday.
Lori Hamamoto, a spokeswoman for the Knicks, said the club would have no comment.
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 College of Charleston. The team has held training camps in Charleston since 1991.
The Daily News reported that several unidentified Knicks players were at the sex show.
Last month, the NBA said it was awaiting more information before taking any action about the allegations involving the party in Charleston.
The indictment said Kaplan, who bought the Gold Club in 1994, has had a long-term relationship with the Gambino operation, once reputedly run by John Gotti. Kaplan is accused of obstructing investigations into the family by hiding and paying witnesses with cash, sexual favors or free club services.
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.
The Gold Club is one of Atlanta's largest nude dancing establishments. In the early 1990s, its liquor sales made it one of the most profitable adult clubs in the country.