People who know me know I'm pretty unshakeable and fearless. My favorite pastime is riding rollercoasters - the faster, the better. I have skydiving on my bucket list. I rush in to help during dangerous situations while others run away. I'm rarely intimidated. I don't mince words and usually say how I feel. I face challenges head-on, using my skills to analyze tough situations and act accordingly. I'm not one to go run and hide when I feel threatened or intimidated. That was until the last couple of weeks.
As you know, I've been covering the Dallas Mavericks games for D210 for a while. There are familiar faces in the Mavs locker room - lots of local journalists we've gotten to know over the years. But the media atmosphere changed significantly during the playoffs - there were literally media outlets from all over the world covering the games, so lots of new and unfamiliar faces. I met a crew from France last night who were so cool. And on Wednesday, I attended a mixer for the National Association of Black Journalists that was fun. The media surrounding big sporting events is an experience in and of itself!
As an attorney and television personality, networking is part of my daily life. My business cards are always handy and I'm constantly trying to initiate business and/or make contacts in both industries. It's not uncommon to hear the words, "Let's grab a drink or lunch sometime." So when I gave a reporter from New York my business card the night the Mavs clenched the western conference championship against OKC, I didn't think much of it. I got the vibe that he was more interested in hitting on me than networking, but surely he'd taken notice of the big ol' wedding ring on my left hand that screams "TAKEN!" I learned long ago to trust my instincts and something about this guy raised caution flags immediately.
Tuesday morning after Memorial Day, I was sitting in my office when my telephone rang - it was him. I asked the secretary to put the call straight to voicemail. On the message, he explained he was in Miami and had some downtime in between assignments. He asked me to call him back at the hotel - he left the number and his room number. I didn't call him back.
Two days later, he called my job again. Persistent, I thought. This time, he didn't leave a message when I asked the secretary to put him into my voicemail. I figured I'd have to call him back or he'd keep calling me at work. That afternoon, I gave him a ring from my cell (dang it - now he has my cell number). The conversation went as expected - small talk at first. I asked how Miami was. He said it was great. He then asked me if we could spend some time together when he got back to Dallas - you know, grab a drink or something. Confused, I thought maybe he didn't get the memo that I'm married. So I purposefully mentioned my husband - my very big, manly, retired NFL tight end husband - and my kids. His response? He was married and had kids too. At this point, I'm thinking to myself, "Get off the phone. Get off the phone quick. Crap - he has my cell number." He told me he didn't mean to intrude. I told him to enjoy Miami.
The following evening, he called me from his hotel room. I didn't recognize the number, so I answered the phone. Crap - it was him. I was getting ready to leave to go to an event and was applying my makeup. He asked if he was on speakerphone and I explained I was getting ready to leave for an event. He said he'd let me go, but asked what time he could call me later. "Never," I thought. I told him I'd be on the road in a bit. When he called my cell at 7:25 that evening, I didn't answer and he left a message. He said we should get creative - maybe after my event, I could swing by his hotel and we could have a nightcap...
How did he know Ryan wasn't going to the event with me? How did he know I'd be near his hotel? I didn't call him back. Freaked out, I called a friend of mine who is married to a cop. I just wanted her to know what was up in case anything crazy happened to me. The following morning, I played the message for Ryan - this guy was really starting to freak me out and I wanted Ryan to be aware of what was going on.
I made my way down to the AAC for Game 3 of the championship series the following Sunday. I wasn't thinking about whether or not the Mavs would win. I couldn't focus enough to formulate my sound bites for D210. I was actually nervous about running into this guy. I knew it was inevitable - we'd run into each other at some point. Knowing I'd be in the same arena as him was paralyzing.
I was walking out of the media room with my producer when we ran dead smack into the man I am now referring to as Stalker. My heart sunk. I was cordial. There was small talk. At one point, my producer started a conversation with a passerby, and Stalker boxed my producer out with his body and asked me, "So are we getting together this week?" My felt sick to my stomach - he didn't get that I wasn't interested AT ALL. I told him no, that any of my free time would be spent with my family (in case he needed to be reminded of the fact that I'm married with children). He told me that was cool - reminded me that he was a dad. He then pulled out his cell and started showing me pictures of his children. Right - he's the world's greatest dad. My producer (who was aware of the situation) told me it was gametime so we went to our seats. I was freaked out enough at this point that I left the game at half-time - I didn't want to run into Stalker after the game. I was home in time to see the 4th quarter.
Two days later, I spent the two hours before Game 4 at the AAC ducking and diving trying to avoid Stalker. At one point in time, he came into the cafeteria where we were eating - he missed me thank God. I got to my seat and breathed a sigh of relief that I was able to avoid him before the game.
I sat in my seat doing what I always do during games - tweeting. The arena lights went out, music was blasting, the crowd was getting pumped, players were being introduced. The atmosphere was awesome and I was sharing it with my "tweeps." My phone beeped a couple of minutes after the game started - I had a text message. It was him. My heart sank. My first thought was not to respond. Crap - he might be watching me, so I better. Here is the conversation that ensued:
Stalker: Enjoying the game? :)
Stalker: Howya been..busy? :)
Me: As usual
Stalker: Ha I bet
Stalker: Meet soon?
Me: I can't - I'm sorry. Swamped this week. Getting ready for two hearings Thurs. before the game. (sidenote: I thought this might be better than me saying "Dude, you're a creep - please leave me alone." Stalkers are crazy - I didn't want to piss him off.)
Stalker: Ha no just trying to be creative. Find a way.. :)
Me: Well, anyone who knows me knows time is a luxury - usu spending my free moments with my family... :)
Stalker: Sure. I understand. Dad as well :)
Stalker: I shouldn't have asked to begin with. :)
Me: Never hurts to ask...
Stalker: Well.. R u .. Good? I'm guessing yes:)
Me: Yes... thx.
Stalker: Haha. I figured was hoping otherwise :)
Me: Hope you enjoy the rest of your week.
Stalker: I will.. You as well I'm sure I'll see you in the post game scrum :)!
I didn't respond. A couple minutes later, stalker responded: "Sorry to offend"
I was so irritated and bothered at this point that the two radio guys sitting next to me asked if I was okay. I told them I wasn't - that I was nervous one of the media guys was being a little pushy. I let them read the texts - they seemed as shocked as I was. They told me I was being too nice - which I probably was. I felt better knowing that someone sitting around me was aware of the situation and could help if anything happened. I had my producer come upstairs so he could walk me down after the game. I managed to all but avoid Stalker, except for a quick walk-by during the "post game scrum."
I didn't hear from Stalker after that, but I knew I'd probably run into him at the last home game. During warm-ups, I was chatting with another young African American female journalist. I told her I was avoiding my stalker. She said she had one too. I asked what his name was - it was the same guy! I just about died. So I wasn't the only one he was terrorizing? Apparently, he was extremely more inappropriate with her, asking her at one point if she was a "naughty girl." Let me just say this - had Stalker said ANYTHING like that to me, there would be a sexual harassment lawsuit sitting on his New York desk waiting for him when he got back to the office after the series. He went on to tell her how big his hotel suite was. She was pretty disturbed by his behavior as well. We shared stories during the game and did our best to avoid Stalker.
After the game, I saw him talking to two young Black women courtside. It became very, very clear to me that this dude really is some sort of predator. Seems to me that he has a thing for young African American women (he's Caucasian - his kids are obviously mixed from the pictures he showed me). Maybe his approach has worked for him many times before - I'm assuming it has or he wouldn't be doing it. Stalker was certainly barking up the wrong tree when he met me.
One good thing besides the win last night - it is the last Mavs game at the AAC this season so there will be no chance of running into Stalker. But for good measure, you know I had to run into him one more time last night, right? Maybe he felt the need to apologize after he saw me chatting with the other young lady he was stalking. He apologized. I said it was okay. He interrupted me and told me to let him finish. He apologized again. I was trying my hardest to escape, but he did that box out thing as I avoided making eye contact and told me again to let him finish. He went on to tell me that I'm an incredibly beautiful woman, probably one of the most beautiful women he's ever seen, and that he apologized if he made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't want to say anything - I figured he'd tell me to be quiet and let him finish again.
As if God knew I needed an out, I turn my head and see none other than Pilar Sanders and her entourage walking towards me. Knowing the ever-growing animosity between Pilar and me, I thought, "PERFECT - an escape." I turned to Stalker and told him I had to leave and walked quickly down the hallway towards the elevator. I didn't look back - I'm thinking he might've been surprised that I'd just walked away. He probably thought it had something to do with him. In case he's reading this, it didn't.
I hope Stalker comes across this blog and reads it. His behavior was disturbing - it made me and the other young woman extremely uncomfortable, fearful and intimidated. We altered our plans because of him - he was borderline terroristic. And I am certainly not a fan of people who throw me off my game.
Not every young Black woman is impressed with you because you're on television. You've got to give us more credit than that. When you make continual advances towards a woman and she tells you she's married, or she screens your calls or keeps making excuses to avoid you, she's not interested. Putting smiley faces behind your texts does not make you less of a creep.