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At 10 minutes to six last Friday afternoon, attorney Lynden Rose
picked up a telephone in the walled suburban Houston mansion of
his client, former Houston Oiler quarterback Warren Moon, and
placed a call to Fort Bend County district attorney John Healey
to ask him what he planned to do on that delicate matter
regarding his client.

An hour and a half earlier, in a press conference orchestrated
for maximum damage control, Moon, who was anointed the NFL's Man
of the Year in 1989, looked tense and frightened as he sat with
his family on a couch in the living room of their Missouri City
house and admitted that he had "lost control" and made a
"tremendous mistake" in an assault on Felicia Moon, his wife of
14 years. Missouri City police had been investigating the
incident ever since the youngest of the Moons' four children,
seven-year-old Jeffrey, called 911 to report it three days
earlier. Felicia had given a detailed description of the attack
in a sworn statement filed last Tuesday with Missouri City
police, and while rumors abounded in Houston that an arrest was
imminent, Healey did not rush to judgment.

However, Warren had been stonewalling the police, who said they
had asked him repeatedly to come to headquarters to give his
version of events, but he had never shown. On Friday morning the
cops stopped asking: They told him they wanted him at the
station house by 6 p.m. Two hours before the deadline, the Moons
held their press conference, and 15 minutes after it was over,
Rose called Healey to tell him that Warren would not be coming
in. Healey had not attended the conference, but in a curious
exercise in long-distance eavesdropping, he had listened to
it--live, by telephone--through a hookup with a radio station in
Minneapolis, where Warren now plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
By the time Rose called again at 10 till six, Healey had made up
his mind. "We are going to charge him," the prosecutor said.

And so, accompanied by Felicia, his lawyer and his agent, Leigh
Steinberg, Warren surrendered to authorities at the Missouri
City jailhouse. There he was fingerprinted and booked on one
count of misdemeanor assault, a charge that carries a maximum
penalty of $4,000 and a year in jail. He was released after
posting a $1,000 bond, with arraignment set for Sept. 19.

It was, beyond the peculiar machinations that preceded the
arrest, a fairly standard case of domestic violence, American
style--from the 911 call to the flight of the victim, and from
Warren's act of contrition to Felicia's pleas that he not be
prosecuted. Police said they rushed to the Moon residence in
response to Jeffrey's report of an assault in progress, but by
the time they arrived, Felicia and Warren were gone. After
Felicia returned home, police said, she told detectives that
Warren had struck her on the head with an open hand and "choked
her to the point of nearly passing out." She said she managed to
break loose and flee in an automobile, according to police, with
Warren pursuing her in a "high-speed chase" until she eventually
eluded him.

What quickly set the incident apart, of course, was Warren's
status as a hero-athlete in Houston, where he had quarterbacked
the Oilers for 10 seasons and where he had been involved for
years in charitable works. There was that good name to protect,
with all those endorsements riding on it, and so when the
incident came to light, Warren attempted to trivialize his
apparent efforts to strangle Felicia by claiming that this was
not a case of domestic violence but rather a "domestic dispute"
that had gotten out of hand: "Because of the strain in our
marriage, regrettably a heated argument occurred yesterday," he
said the day after the incident. "It was very unfortunate, but
it happened. Felicia and I both love each other and will work
together to move in a positive direction with God in our lives."

By Friday the episode was the story of the week in Houston, the
hot topic on radio call-in shows, and there was no more
trivializing what had occurred. So Warren, with Steinberg doing
the engineering, decided to try to settle things from his living
room couch. "Something happened, and it wasn't good," Steinberg
said after the press conference. "We could not let the tension
grow." Flanked by his family, a domestic-violence advocate and
lawyers and friends--with a floral arrangement sent by the
Houston Rockets' Clyde Drexler sitting nearby--Warren stared
straight ahead as he spoke, talking about "a sad thing that has
happened," about how he wanted to save his family and make the
marriage work and about losing control. "It scared me," he said.
"I made a tremendous mistake. I take full responsibility for
what happened.... I want to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Four hours later, after a public purging designed to put the
whole business behind him, Moon was having his mug shot taken.
Having miscalculated, Steinberg was indignant. "I don't
understand what the governmental interest is," he said. "He has
faced his own conduct. He has admitted it privately and
publicly.... What societal value is protected by arresting
Warren Moon?"

Healey was unmoved by all such arguments--by Felicia's wishes
that he drop the charges, by Warren's contrition and
philanthropy, by Steinberg's pronouncements on the nature of
justice. Instead, he wondered, how would Warren have been
treated if in the course of an argument with a stranger, perhaps
a female, he had slapped her and then choked her until she
almost passed out? Why should such an assault be treated
differently because the victim was his wife? "A crime has taken
place," Healey said. "There was an assault. The criminal process
was put into operation."

The prosecutor has a case--the 911 tape, Felicia's statement, a
new Texas law that can compel a wife to testify against her
husband and a statement by Warren that seemed tantamount to an
admission of guilt. But if Healey pursues the prosecution, says
Rose, Warren will plead not guilty. There is no telling the
outcome. Warren is a folk hero in Houston, a doer of good
works--and this, after all, is a case of domestic violence. A
neck-wringing minimized as a "domestic dispute." An assault
masquerading as an argument. A crime perceived and treated like
no other in America, especially, it seems, when it is committed
by an athlete.

Not since it first arose as a matter of public discussion more
than a century ago, with the 1878 publication of the book Wife
Torture in England, has the issue of domestic abuse been as
hotly debated as it has been the last few years. And surely in
no other arena--from academia to entertainment, from politics to
industry--have more and varied men been exposed as batterers than
in the relatively small, if highly visible, world of sports.

But if the number of athletes involved in domestic violence is
minuscule compared with the number of batterers in the U.S.
population as a whole, the volume of such incidents reported on
by the media suggests that a majority of the nation's domestic
abusers play college or professional sports. This is not so, of
course, but the trial of O.J. Simpson, with its repeated playing
of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson's call to 911, has been the
loudest and longest-running domestic violence saga in history.
While Simpson is certainly the most celebrated athlete ever to
admit having battered his wife, he is hardly alone. Mike Tyson's
rape of Desiree Washington was not domestic violence (she was
virtually a stranger when he violated her four years ago in
Indianapolis), but his battering of former wife Robin Givens
was. After saying that the best punch he ever threw was aimed at
Givens, Tyson was quoted by a biographer, Jose Torres, as having
said, "She flew backward, hitting every ---- wall in the
apartment." Perhaps nowhere in the literature of misogyny--a
critical component in many cases of domestic abuse--has the word
been defined more vividly than by Tyson: "I like to hurt women
when I make love to them.... I like to hear them scream with
pain, to see them bleed.... It gives me pleasure."

Although batterers are rarely exposed in any other realm of
human activity--who are they in politics, in the military or
law?--it has become a challenge to read any sports section for a
week without finding a tale of domestic abuse involving an
athlete. Moon, Simpson and Tyson are merely at the top of a roll
of athlete--abusers that goes on and on: In the last three years
alone, the list of the accused has included Dante Bichette and
Barry Bonds, John Daly and Scottie Pippen, Jose Canseco and
Bobby Cox, Michael Cooper and Darryl Strawberry, Duane Causwell
and Jaime Brandon, Olden Polynice and Otis Wilson. And for every
story printed, far more remain untold.

Take the case of Robert Parish, the longtime Boston Celtic
center who now plays for the Charlotte Hornets. While portrayed
for years by the imagemakers in Boston as a gentle giant who was
as large in class and character as in stature, Parish, according
to his former wife, Nancy Saad, was a domestic terrorist.
Nowhere is this dark side more graphically revealed than in her
recounting of an incident on the afternoon of June 2, 1987,
hours before the Celtics were to open the NBA Finals against the
Los Angeles Lakers at the Forum.

As Saad arrived at the door of her estranged husband's room at
the Marriott Hotel near L.A. International Airport, she recalls,
she could hear muffled laughter in the room and the voices of a
woman and a man, and she could smell the smoke from a marijuana
cigarette, Parish's favorite scent. She and Parish had not lived
together for nearly a year, not since the day, she says, when
Parish, who is 7'1" and 230 pounds, threw her down the stairs of
their house in Weston, Mass., and then, as she screamed for
help, kicked her as she stumbled out the front door.

On this day in June, Saad says, she had driven to the Marriott
from her home in Santa Monica to talk with Parish about several
nagging issues: One involved their five-year-old son, Justin,
whom Parish had not seen in weeks and who had recently suffered
minor injuries in a bicycle accident, and another had to do with
the $3,000 a month he was sending her in child support out of
his $100,000-a-month salary. "I called him when they arrived at
the Marriott and told him I would like to come talk to him," she

She says that she rapped on the hotel room door and that Parish
opened it as far as the chain would allow and peered down. Then,
she says, he asked, "Bitch, what are you doin' here?"

"I've been trying to reach you," she said. "I want to talk to
you about Justin...."

"Can't you see I'm busy?" he said. He closed the door, she says,
and she knocked again. She heard the sliding of the chain. The
door cracked open again, and this time she pushed it with her
right arm. "Let me in," she said. "You're not going to keep
doing this to me...." Saad looked in the room, she says, and saw
a naked woman grabbing a sheet to cover herself. The woman
screamed, whereupon Parish opened the door farther and said,
"Bitch, are you ---- crazy? I'll kill you!"

According to Saad, Parish then grabbed her by the throat and
threw her out the door, into the hallway, and she remembers
being punched and thrown into a wall and spinning and thumping
off the door of an adjacent room. The next thing she recalls is
falling dizzily to the floor and lying there supine, looking up
at a stranger's face, that of an older man with salt-and-pepper
hair who was wearing a dress shirt. He said, "What the...!" She
remembers saying to him, "Help me...!" And then she recalls
hearing Parish's bass voice, slow and deep and rolling over her,
still eerie and unclear, saying something to the older man. "I
don't know what it was," she says. "The man went in and shut his
door." And then Parish kicked her, she says, and he was saying,
"Get the ---- out!"

Eight years later Saad still has no memories of what happened to
her immediately after the events of that June afternoon. In
fact, she remains uncertain about how she got home that day, and
she is unclear as to how she arrived the next morning at Saint
John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, where she
remained for seven days, with a stay in intensive care, and
where, according to her hospital records, she was diagnosed with
a "closed head injury," impaired vision in her right eye,
abrasions around her left eye and over her right cheek, a "large
bruise" on her right arm and soreness and spasms in her neck.
This battering, according to a medical evaluation written three
years later, led to chronic headaches and convulsions. Parish,
from whom Saad has been divorced since 1990, declined to
comment, according to his representative, James McLaughlin, on
this or any other "allegations made by his ex-wife."

While Saad says the beating at the Marriott was the most
traumatic she suffered at Parish's hands, it was no isolated
event. In fact, she says, the abuse, both psychological and
physical, began not long after they started dating in 1980 and
persisted throughout their 10-year relationship. There was that
night in late '81 when she was eight months pregnant and, she
says, "he pushed me down a flight of stairs" because she kept
badgering him to tell her why he wasn't coming home at nights.
There was the summer evening in '82 when she criticized his
erratic driving after a party outside San Francisco, and,
according to her, he swung the car to a halt on the shoulder of
the road and "took his foot and kicked me out of the car. I was
screaming and holding on." She says he left her there, after
dropping infant Justin in her arms, to walk for miles in the
dark. On other occasions there were kicks to the legs and
punches to the face and head, she says, and there were times he
took her keys and locked her out of the house, leaving her to
make late-night calls for help to sympathetic Celtics and their
wives, particularly to Kim and Scott Wedman and to Sylvia and
M.L. Carr, now Boston's coach and general manager.

Asked about his and Sylvia's knowledge of the domestic violence
in the Parish household, Carr says only, "I've got lots of other
positive things to talk about, and I'd rather not comment on
this right now." Wedman did not return telephone calls to his
home and office in Kansas City. A friend of Parish's who was in
Los Angeles that June day says he saw Saad, sobbing and frantic,
in the Marriott lobby. Sam Vincent, then a Boston player, says
he was in a room next to Parish's and that he heard arguing in
the hallway before he answered Saad's knock on his door.
Vincent, who now does sports marketing in Orlando, told Saad he
did not want to get involved in what he assumed was a marital

Saad's experience as a battered wife, with its assorted
paradoxes and horrors, was singular neither in its nature nor in
the dynamics that sustained it. As such it demonstrates why
domestic violence is viewed not only as one of America's most
critical social issues, as disabling psychologically as it is
physically, but also is among the most baffling of social
phenomena in its often endless repeated spin cycles of pain,
retribution, contrition and more pain.

There is no denying its national scope. Eight to 12 million
women a year are assaulted by their partners, numerous studies
have shown, and these assaults have been cited as the leading
cause of injuries to women from 15 to 44. In fact, more women
die from or are injured at the hands of their abusers than are
injured or killed in car accidents, muggings and rapes combined,
and the numbers that make this point are most likely
conservative: While 35% of emergency-room visits by women are
for symptoms that may be the result of spousal abuse, as few as
5% of these victims are ever so categorized. An inordinate
number of American women seem to trip and fall into hospitals
over things that go bump in the night.

But what about the apparent prevalence of athletes among
abusers? Are so many exposed as batterers because, as cultural
icons, they are subjected to more searching scrutiny? Or does
something about sports encourage such behavior? And do athletes
indeed batter their mates more than nonathletes--more than, say,
lobstermen, judges or insurance agents? While there are no
definitive answers on these matters, one study suggests that
male athletes are more likely to resort to sexual violence than
other men.

That study, conducted by researchers at two universities,
Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts, reviewed 107
cases of sexual assault reported at 30 Division I schools
between 1991 and '93. The researchers concluded that "male
college student-athletes, compared to the rest of the male
student population, are responsible for a significantly higher
percentage of the sexual assaults reported to judicial affairs
on the campuses of Division I institutions." Specifically, while
male student-athletes at 10 of those schools made up only 3.3%
of the total male student body, they were involved in 19.0% of
the assaults. One of the authors of the study, Todd Crosset,
assistant professor of sport management at Massachusetts, said
that some press reports on the issue of athletes and violence
had been exaggerated, but he added, "These exaggerations do not
discount that there is solid evidence of a problem in sport."

The subworld of the American athlete is one in which the ancient
virtues of manhood--of the brave, cool, tough, dominating and
aggressive male--are celebrated. It is one in which sexist
machospeak and the demeaning of women have been the means by
which men express their maleness. It is a closed culture, shot
through with incessant messages of male supremacy, a sermon that
drones like Muzak in the national church of sport. Back in 1978,
on the day that the New York Yankees first reluctantly allowed
female reporters into their clubhouse, the women who stepped
into the hallowed room were greeted by a large cake sitting on a
table. That pastry, designed by a Brooklyn baker, commissioned
by a player, said all you need to know about the world of the
locker room: The two-foot-long cake was in the form of a penis.
Chocolate shavings, mimicking pubic hairs, were sprinkled around
the part shaped like testicles.

It was an unforgettably foul expression of the group contempt in
which the intruders to the male bastion were held, and its
message was clearer and more powerful than any homily ever hung
Particularly in the contact sports, things feminine have served
as symbols of things to be avoided. "Part of the male athlete's
subworld is not to be a woman," says Crosset, a former swimmer
at Texas and former assistant athletic director at Dartmouth.
"Women are degraded. You don't want to be skirt-of-the-week. You
don't want to be a wimp, a sissy. To be a man is not to be a
woman. Women are not to be respected. Women are despised."

It was this attitude that moved a high school football coach in
Los Angeles to paint the picture of a vagina on the tackling
dummies. And it was surely what inspired Indiana basketball
coach Bob Knight--the same man who told Connie Chung on national
television in 1988, "I think if rape is inevitable, relax and
enjoy it"--to put a sanitary napkin in the locker of a player
whose maleness he was challenging. Crosset is not alone in
suggesting that such attitudes both denigrate women and
ultimately condone and encourage violence against them. In a
1992 essay entitled "Male Athletes and Sexual Assault," Merrill
Melnick, an associate professor at the State University of New
York, wrote of the "macho-groupthink" of the arena spilling into
the home, and he posited that "aggression on the playing field,
sexist language and attitudes used in the locker room and an
inordinate need to prove one's maleness can combine in complex
ways to predispose some male athletes towards off-the-field

An athlete cherishes nothing more than control over an opponent,
and nothing lifts him higher than the sense that he has attained
that control. For the pitcher whose hopping fastball intimidates
a batter, for the lineman who muscles a foe to the turf, there
is that sensation, the most sublime in sport, that they have
established control. "I owned him after that," they all say. "He
was all mine." The pursuit of dominance lies at the heart of all
athletic contests, and it happens to be the animating force
behind the men who batter their women. Alisa DelTufo, the
founder of Sanctuary for Families, a shelter for abused women
and children in New York City, sees a line connecting home and
arena in the athlete's fight for control. "Men who need to be in
control of their environment in order to feel O.K. about
themselves often have a problem with domestic violence," says
DelTufo, a research fellow at the Institute for Child,
Adolescent and Family Studies in Manhattan.

Very few athletes involved in episodes of battering have stepped
forward to discuss either their actions or their histories, but
one man who has, Denver Bronco receiver Vance Johnson, was
revealing in discussing the childhood influences that shaped him
as he grew up in the ghetto of Trenton, N.J. Johnson admits to
having repeatedly beaten his first two wives, and in his 1994
book, The Vance: the Beginning and the End, he writes,
"Everywhere I looked, men abused women. There was absolutely no
respect given to women in Trenton. All of the women were really
battered and abused emotionally and physically. It was just a
way of life, and no one ever did anything about it.... If you
stood on the porch for 15 minutes, you were guaranteed to see
some guy beating the ---- out of his woman out in front of

For the vast majority of people, battering is so bewildering by
nature that it mocks credulity. In case after case, domestic
violence is haunted by a central paradox: Why does she stay?

This question hovers over nearly every case of such violence. It
was there last July in Islamorada, Fla., when Susan Fitzpatrick,
the pregnant wife of Florida Panther goalie Mark Fitzpatrick,
reported to police that he had grabbed her, shoved her and
kicked her in the back while they were vacationing there. Mark
was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant
woman, a felony. He denied that charge and entered a pretrial
diversion program; upon completion of the program, the charge
will be dropped. According to the arrest report, Susan told
police that "her husband has hit her many times before and [she]
just could not take the abuse any longer. Also she was concerned
about the safety of her unborn child." A week after the
incident, Susan filed for divorce; the child, a daughter, was
born on Sept. 2.

The question arose again last May after the authorities arrested
Chicago Bull forward Scottie Pippen on a charge of domestic
battery following an episode in which, according to police
reports, he injured his fiancae, Yvette DeLeone, by grabbing her
arm and shoving her against a car in the garage of the home they
were sharing in Highland Park, Ill. The incident occurred on May
19, the day after Chicago was eliminated from the playoffs.

The episode was not the first for Pippen, according to police
reports. His former wife, Karen McCollum, told police that
Pippen "hit and choked" her early one evening in the summer of
1989 as she returned home from a court hearing in which she told
a Chicago judge that she needed protection from Pippen.

Nor was it the first incident for DeLeone and Pippen, according
to a statement DeLeone gave police. Two years earlier DeLeone
told police she suffered fractures of the right hand after
Pippen "threw the victim approximately six feet out the front
door." The misdemeanor charge of battery in that case was
dropped when DeLeone declined to sign a complaint; charges in
the most recent incident were thrown out July 17 when DeLeone
abruptly abandoned the case. Pippen's lawyers had asserted in
court papers that they would show a "pattern of lying and
deceit" throughout the couple's romance and that DeLeone
"fabricated an entire life history." Her departure, without any
financial settlement, brought to an end a relationship that
DeLeone insisted had been marked by violence for two years.

"Domestic violence is a very difficult cycle for a woman to
break," DelTufo says. "And like leaving anything that you know
and feel strong about, it is hard, very hard."

No one knows this better than Nancy Saad. She and Parish were
perfectly suited for each other, bound as they were by the
braids they wove together out of their family histories. Parish
grew up in Shreveport, La., and Saad says he used to regale her
with stories about his feuding relatives. "Pulling knives and
guns on each other," she says. "He saw a lot of violence growing

Saad was raised in a rigidly patriarchal family with Middle
Eastern roots. Her Lebanese mother, Mary, was passive and
battered; her Syrian-born father, Fred, was domineering and
violent. He used to lecture Parish on the art of keeping the
headstrong Nancy in line. Because of her upbringing, she thought
that being battered was the natural order of things. "It becomes
a way of life," she says. "When my father used to choke me or
take a knife to me, my mother would say, in Arabic, 'Get some
sleep. Your father really loves you. It's the only way he knows
how to show you.' If a man wasn't aggressive and abusive, he
didn't love me."

Cycles of abuse are harder yet to break in court, especially for
those women involved with athletes or coaches much revered in
their communities--where police often work harder collecting
autographs than evidence and where the media and the fans,
including those on the jury, tend to side with the icon over the
iconoclast. Sun Bonds, the former wife of San Francisco Giant
outfielder Barry Bonds, fended off her then estranged husband's
legal efforts last August to gain access to their Atherton,
Calif., house--the scene of one incident of domestic violence
that she had reported to the police--by threatening to "amply"
substantiate her claim that he had caused her physical and
emotional injury there. Barry then abandoned his petition for
access to the property.

However, Sun, a Swedish immigrant, soon found out what it was
like to be the wife of a celebrated American baseball player and
accused wife abuser. In August, when baseball's highest-paid
outfielder, at $4.75 million a year, sought to have his
family-support payments reduced from $15,000 to $7,500 a
month--Barry, the father of two young children, was pleading
"financial hardship" in the middle of the baseball strike--he
found himself before a star-struck San Mateo County Superior
Court judge, George Taylor, who described himself as an ardent
baseball fan. Immediately after granting the $7,500 reduction,
Taylor asked Barry for an autograph. Barry granted it with a
flourish. Two weeks later, as the result of what had become a
public embarrassment, Taylor set aside his judgment, returned
the autograph and recused himself from the case. Barry and Sun
Bonds refused requests for interviews.

Barry's encounter was no anomaly. Whether stopped for speeding
or arrested for battering a woman, the athlete encounters a
legal system in which the scales are tipped in his favor. Saad
says Parish used to taunt her to challenge him in public.
"Robert would constantly hold it over my head," she says. "'Who
you gonna tell? Who's gonna believe you? They're gonna believe
me, and I'll make you look crazy.' And it was easy to make me
look crazy then because I was losing my mind. My family was
absorbed by the status of Robert. Everybody was. The image that
he portrayed was of a quiet gentleman. Quiet dignity. Who was
going to believe me?"

The athlete usually can count on a worshipful public that wants
to believe him. "The athlete's status in the community often
makes it hard for people to believe that these guys are really
batterers," says Richard Gelles, for 22 years the director of
the Family Violence Research program at the University of Rhode
Island. "This is particularly true of the athletes who have
cultivated their public image as 'good guys.' The wives of the
gentle giants feel they can't go public because no one will
believe them."

Cases involving even minor celebrity-athletes present the same
imbalance. Nowhere was this more manifest than it was in early
June in Denver, where a former Colorado Rocky pitcher named
Marcus Moore, 24, went to trial on charges that on the night of
July 17, 1994, he had raped and sexually assaulted his then
girlfriend, 29-year-old Markel Nield, in his Denver apartment.
By the time of the alleged assault, Moore was no longer pitching
for the Rockies, as he had been earlier that summer. He had
since been dispatched to the Rockies' AAA affiliate, the
Colorado Springs Sky Sox, but was already relatively well known
around Denver.

Moore and Nield, a telephone company sales representative, had
carried on an occasionally stormy relationship since July 1993,
when the Rockies first called him up. It was, she would testify,
an affair marked by an ascending series of incidents that ran
from intimidation to physical abuse to flight. Nield made a
highly credible witness for the prosecution as she offered a
teary description of the events that led up to the alleged July
17 battering, the assault itself and the cab ride back to her
apartment from Moore's.

On July 16, Moore had been the Sky Sox's starting pitcher in a
road game against the Albuquerque Dukes. It turned out to be the
most humiliating performance of his career. In four innings he
had given up 10 earned runs and walked five batters. The next
day, still out of control, he called Nield and demanded that she
drive the 67 miles from Denver to Colorado Springs that night to
meet the team bus and take him back to Denver. When she got lost
and arrived late, she testified, he repeatedly told her, "You
need some discipline."

Making light of that line, Nield testified, she told him, "What
are you going to do, Marcus, spank me? That would be kinky."

The discipline, she said, began that night when she emerged from
the bathroom in his apartment, dressed in a nightshirt and
string bikini panties. Moore threw her on the bed, she said,
ripped off the panties and forced her facedown on the bed.
"Don't move," she said he told her. At this point, she
testified, he started beating her on the buttocks with a belt.
"He hit me again and again," she said. "I was screaming." The
final lash of the belt struck her between the legs, she said,
causing her to bolt up in pain. He then assaulted her sexually,
she said, both anally and vaginally. They had experimented with
anal sex before, Nield said, but she had found it painful and
had begged him not to do it again.

Moore's testimony revealed an altogether different view of that
night's events, of course, but it lacked the steady tone of
Nield's. Murmuring his answers, turning restlessly in his chair,
looking everywhere but at the jurors, he appeared to be a man
who would rather have been at the dentist's. The vaginal and
anal sex were consensual, he testified, and were nothing
different from their routine. The only departure from their
usual practices, he said, was the spanking she had asked him
for: "She says, 'Are we gonna have kinky sex? Are you gonna
spank me?' I look around. I see my belt. I say, O.K., cool. I
hit her three or four times ... about 30 percent [of my full
force] ... I didn't try to hit her between the legs. I cuddled
her. Everything was cool. She told me she loved me."

The most powerful component in the state's case was the string
of witnesses that the prosecutor, Sheila Rappaport, brought to
the stand to corroborate the plaintiff's story. The part-time
cabbie who took her home from Moore's apartment, Ronald Tallman,
is a Methodist minister and registered psychotherapist. "I heard
her bang her fist on the seat of the cab and say, 'I can't
believe he did that,'" Tallman said. "She'd been raped, I
thought.... I offered her the phone to call the police. I
offered to take her to the hospital. She said she didn't want to
get him in trouble. He was a fairly prominent person. I didn't
push her." When she got home Nield called her best friend, Lu
Mancinelli, who described Nield as "babbling, incoherent,
hysterical." At the doctor's office she visited on the morning
of July 18, office manager D.J. Masamori said, Nield "could not
sit down. She was uncomfortable. She was tearful, very tearful,
the entire time."

While Rappaport appeared to have a winning case, Steve
Munsinger, Moore's attorney, portrayed the older Nield, who is
white, as a love-crazed gold-digger with a taste for kinky sex
who had preyed on a young black man who was up against the
system. The 12 jurors, nine women and three men, included 10
whites and two blacks. "Justice has not always been race
neutral," Munsinger said. "You must give this black man accused
of raping a white woman a fair trial."

Nor did Munsinger fail to make the point that Moore, who was
traded to the Cincinnati Reds' organization after his arrest,
was now playing Double A ball in Chattanooga. He had fallen a
mile from his days in Denver. Perhaps most crucially, Munsinger
also played upon the bias that works against abused women who
stay with their tormentors. Repeatedly he returned to an
incident in Tucson in which Moore spit on Nield and belittled
her with epithets like "white trash" and "whore." Munsinger
pointed out that three days later Nield returned to Moore in
Arizona wearing black spike heels and a black trench coat that
was buttoned up to the neck and covered little more than black
hose and a garter belt.

It all worked. The jury hung itself, voting to acquit on both
the rape charge (11-1) and the assault charge (10-2). The lone
"guilty" voter on the rape charge, Kenneth Womack, 40, a nurse
at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver,
says the vote turned on Moore's status as a ballplayer.
"Everybody said he was guilty," Womack said. "They didn't want
to convict him. It was baseball that did it. They didn't want to
push it with a baseball player, a celebrity. They thought being
traded down to the minors was punishment enough." Unconvinced,
the prosecutor has decided to retry the case; the new trial will
begin on Oct. 31.

An undercurrent of hostility, particularly among the women
jurors, ran against Nield. It was as if she had betrayed her
gender. "The women were harder on her than the men," says a
female juror who is having second thoughts about the verdict.
"They portrayed her as a loose woman. They had no compassion for

In another classic reaction, the jurors were bewildered by the
fact that Nield had returned to Moore after the Tucson episode.
"The fact that she kept coming back for more was a big factor,"
says juror Michael Kleinschmidt, 30, a sales manager for
Marriott. "Why was she so willing to put up with this man?"

It is the eternal, unanswerable heart of the matter. In 1992,
when Mark Schrader was a deputy in the Palm Beach County, Fla.,
sheriff's office in West Palm Beach, he was summoned to the
scene of a domestic violence incident involving a 28-year-old
major league baseball player, Alphonse Dante Bichette, and his
pregnant 19-year-old girlfriend, Marianna Peng, who is now his
wife. Bichette was just a year away from making it big with the
Colorado Rockies, but that is not why Schrader remembers him. It
was, says Schrader, a curious encounter: "I'd never heard of the
guy until I arrested him. His girlfriend said he grabbed ahold
of her and threw her around. She was pretty upset. I had no idea
who he was until she showed me his baseball card--she had a stack
of them--and asked if I wanted his signature. It seemed kind of

It was a pleasant arrest, as aggravated batteries go. "I
remember him being a gentleman," Schrader says. "He basically
said what she said was true, and we took a ride to the jail. I
remember seeing some of the doors to their home had been kicked
in. She told me this wasn't the first time this had happened.
Like all the rest, she said she was going to leave him, but I
guess she didn't."

Says DelTufo, "The question is always, 'Why doesn't she leave?'
rather than 'Why doesn't he stop beating her?'"

Bichette's agent, Ron Shapiro, said, "This is not a domestic
abuse situation ... because there's no pattern here and no
history except this one argument that occurred before they were

For years battering was perceived not as a criminal matter, like
mugging and armed robbery, but as a phenomenon that belonged in
the intimate realm of the hearth, like making love or Christmas
cookies. The only time the subject came up was in the old
beat-your-wife line. So after the Philadelphia 76ers barely
defeated the New Jersey Nets on Nov. 3, 1990, the Sixers'
Charles Barkley said, "This is a game that, if you lose, you go
home and beat your wife and kids." And even that paragon, Penn
State football coach Joe Paterno, said, after his team lost
17-14 to Texas on Sept. 8, 1990, "I'm going to go home and beat
my wife."

Though Saad once viewed domestic violence as a fact of life, as
a link in the natural chain of things, she began to see things
differently a year ago. "That was when I first saw myself as a
battered woman," she says. "I didn't begin to understand this
until I saw Robert as a victim. This was something he learned
from somebody before him. He never got help. I think a lot of
famous men are afraid to come out of the closet and say, 'I have
this problem.' Once I saw Robert as a victim, too, I was able to
forgive him. And I have."

Felicia Moon was silent on the matter of forgiveness. Her pain
was, perhaps, too fresh to swab with charity. At the Moons'
press conference, no one ventured to explain what happened on
July 18--what could move a seven-year-old to call 911--but when it
came her turn to speak, Felicia left no doubt as to the fear she
felt. She is a former board member of the Fort Bend County
Women's Center, which runs a shelter for battered women, and she
knows the stubborn nature of domestic violence. Reading from
notes written in pencil, she said she was feeling better about
her husband since the incident: "After many hours of prayer,
tears and consultations with my husband, I feel safe in his

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY ANASTASIA VASILAKAS [collage incorporating photos of sports personalities with drawing of woman's hands crossed to form an "X"]

B/W PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [see caption above--photo of Warren Moon playing football incorporated into collage]

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD LEWIS/BBS [see caption above--photo of Mark Fitzpatrick playing hockey incorporated into collage]

B/W PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON [see caption above--photo of Robert Parish in collage]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO [see caption above--photo of O.J. Simpson in collage]

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON [see caption above--photo of Mike Tyson in collage]

COLOR PHOTO: BILL BAPTISTThree days after the 911 call by seven-year-old Jeffrey (in sister Chelsea's lap), Felicia, Warren and their kids met the press. [Felicia Moon, Warren Moon, Chelsea Moon, Jeffrey Moon, and two unidentified children]

COLOR PHOTO: JEFFREY LOWESaad, shown at her Los Angeles house, says her family "was absorbed by the status" and the dignified image of Parish. [Nancy Saad] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [see caption above--Robert Parish in Boston Celtics uniform]

COLOR PHOTO: GREGG DEGUIRE/LONDON FEATURES Nicole's 911 call still echoes, as do the words of Tyson (with Givens): "I like to hurt women when I make love to them." [O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [see caption above--Mike Tyson and Robin Givens]COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD LEWIS/BBSThe pregnant wife of Fitzpatrick (left) accused him of beating her; Pippen's fiancae dropped her charges. [Mark Fitzpatrick playing hockey for the Florida Panthers]

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG [see caption above--Scottie Pippen]

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIERJohnson, an admitted batterer, saw the roots of the problem in his past: "Everywhere I looked, men abused women." [Vance Johnson]

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVEROSome jurors felt Moore's demotion to Double A was punishment enough, while others wondered why Nield stayed. [Marcus Moore]

COLOR PHOTO: JEFFREY LOWE [see caption above--Markel Nield]