Jason Caffey, Gary Payton, and Sam Cassell have had a little legal thing hanging over them for some time after some kind of altercation outside a Toronto strip club in April 2003.
Yesterday, Cassell appeared as the only witness for the defense. Natalie Alcoba reports:
On the stand Thursday as defence counsel's only witness, Cassell said the three players were at the club on April 11, 2003, for about two hours. Payton, who now plays for the Miami Heat, spent most of the time there with one dancer. At around 2 a.m. the players left the club and got into a cab. But before it drove away, Payton spotted the same stripper who had danced for him and called out: ''Come here my whore,'' Cassell testified.
The 36-year-old NBA star explained that the term was not meant to be derogatory: ''That's how they was communicating with each other. She was also calling him 'my whore' too.''
But Cimpean thought Payton was calling out to his girlfriend, Cassell said.
''He told Gary, 'I don't care who you are, you don't talk to my woman that way','' said Cassell. ''He called Gary a nigger.''
After that ''sparks just flew'' between Payton and Cimpean, Cassell testified. Words were exchanged and it was Cimpean who pushed first, he said.
Cassell said he tried to hold the male stripper back, but was shrugged off and fell to the ground. Seconds later club bouncers intervened to break up the fight, which Cassell estimated lasted no more than ten seconds. He also said he has never heard Payton call a white person a ''nigger''.
The Toronto Star has many more details, including:
The setting: three then-Milwaukee Bucks waiting outside a club for a certain stripper Payton had his eye on, Nicole Stone.
In cross examination, the prosecution pointed out to Cassell that he never mentioned anything about the N word during his initial questioning.
There is a dispute as to the length of the fight--some say ten seconds. In the article quoted above, one estimate says 25 minutes.
Gary Payton's wife Monique was asked about the event shortly after it happened by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter:
"I don't care about that stuff," Monique said. "Guys are guys. They'll go to those places. And sometimes athletes can be targets for trouble. Other (NBA) wives ask their husbands, 'How could you go to that place? How could you do that?' But I say, 'Hey, I'll go with you if you want.' If not, at least I know where he is. All I tell him is to come home safe."