If you thought the Phoenix Cardinals were woeful last season, you should talk to a handful of Tempe residents about the off-season--specifically, the night of May 7.
Nearly three months after two Cardinal players, Eric Hill and Willie Williams, allegedly harassed a restaurant crowd and a college professor, bitterness lingers.
The alleged victims are waiting for an apology and are still resentful. But the football players say the whole thing has been blown out of proportion and give no indication of apologizing. Both Hill and Williams have pleaded not guilty to subsequent charges of disorderly conduct.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals' front office is embarrassed. General manager Larry Wilson, whose club has had trouble attracting a following, says, "Certainly this reflects on the team. But it reflects on the player himself. I don't think they should be acting like that."
On that Tuesday evening in early May, according to eyewitness accounts and police reports, Hill--a 6-2, 250-pound linebacker who was the team's first-round draft choice in 1989--loudly propositioned several female customers and an employee at Schlotzsky's Sandwich Shop at 18 East Tenth Street in Tempe. Williams--a 6-6, 300-pound tackle picked up by the Cards in the supplemental draft last year--allegedly attempted to open the professor's car door at a stoplight while yelling obscenities and insults.
Arizona State University police slapped both Hill and Williams with disorderly conduct citations; Williams was also accused of driving while intoxicated. The cases are making their way slowly through the justice system.
Both Hill and Williams--friends since their days at Louisiana State University--deny that they intimidated or harassed anyone during that night on the town. They say they are being singled out because they are football players.
Police reports, witness statements from the time of the incidents and recent interviews tell a different story. At about 6 p.m. that night, ASU assistant professor of psychology William Fabricius was waiting at a stoplight at the campus intersection of McAllister Avenue and Terrace Road when a Jeep Wrangler pulled up to the right of his car. The driver, described by Fabricius as "one of the biggest guys I've ever seen," began pulling on Fabricius' door handle and screaming. (Police later identified the Jeep driver as Williams.) The professor says he thought at the time, "Maybe my car's on fire, or maybe something's hanging out the door."
When he rolled down his window, Fabricius says, he realized the Jeep driver was screaming, "Open your goddamn door, you fucking asshole honky!" He repeated it three or four times, Fabricius says, reaching his hand into the window before pulling it out as the professor hastily hit the power-window switch.
"It was very upsetting," Fabricius says. "The driver went berserk." He jotted down the Jeep's license plate and called police.
About fifteen minutes later, two people later identified as Hill and Williams entered the Schlotzsky's at 18 East Tenth Street. There was a handful of other customers in the small restaurant.
The two were loud, reeked of alcohol and were "very intoxicated," two employees later told police. The man later identified as Hill asked a female cashier for three ham and cheese sandwiches, one with jalapenos. He told her his name was "Easy," says employee David Fancher.
After Fancher went back to make the sandwiches, the cashier says, Hill called her "beautiful" and asked if she wanted some "candy," explaining that the candy was his penis. According to the cashier's witness statement, Hill then "pushed his penis upon the counter."
Witnesses told police that Hill and Williams then sat down next to a woman who was waiting for a male friend to order. They asked if the man was her boyfriend. When she told them he wasn't, "they asked the girl if she would fuck them," according to a witness's statement to police, and hounded her "about sex, orgasms, fucking."
The woman left.
The 250-pound Hill then lay down on a front table, Fancher says, and peered over at a couple sitting near a window. He asked the woman "if she would fuck them or suck his dick," the cashier later told police. As the couple left Schlotzsky's, the woman called one of the players "an asshole," according to the cashier's statement.
Hill and Williams followed them outside to their car, witnesses say, and Hill hopped on the couple's car, jumping up and down. The couple finally sped off.
When the two players came back inside, the cashier told police, she went over to them and said, "Come on, you guys. You've run away all my customers, plus you're yelling and you're acting like fools, so please chill out." Hill then "rubbed against" her, she told police.
On their way out, according to the cashier, one of the players told her: "Fuck you, bitch, suck this and fuck that transvestite you're working with."
At 6:45 p.m., ASU police officer William Orr, who had been looking for the Jeep since Fabricius' complaint, pulled the Jeep over at McAllister and Lemon Street.
"I asked Williams if he had been drinking," Orr wrote in his report. "Williams said, `I had two beers.' I asked, `How big?' Williams said, `Regular beers, like Budweiser, not light beer.'" Williams took a breath test at the ASU police station and registered a blood-alcohol level of .164 percent, according to Orr's report. (The legal limit is .10 percent.) Williams was cited for driving while intoxicated.
Williams also was cited for disorderly conduct against Fabricius; both he and Hill were cited for disorderly conduct in Schlotzsky's. A few days after the incident, Schlotzsky's general manager Craig Humphreys sent a letter to Cardinals' general manager Wilson, asking for an apology.
"I am most disappointed that these very large men would flaunt their size in such a way as to intimidate members of the public," Humphreys wrote Wilson. "I am even more angry at the fact that customers we work hard at attracting would be chased from our sandwich shop and may never return. I am sure you understand, as your organization is at this time working hard to attract and keep valuable customers."
Humphreys got no reply from the Cardinals. At the end of May, he again wrote Wilson.
Since then, the only call Humphreys has received from the Cardinals was from a salesman asking him to buy season tickets.
"We're pissed off," Humphreys says, "that a big organization like the Cards doesn't have the decency to apologize and would just blow us off."
Wilson tells New Times that he hasn't gotten back to Humphreys because "I want to be able to notify him that I can get this done." He says he hasn't been able to convince both players that an apology is in order.
Wilson says he expects the two to make amends. "There are certain things we don't want to see our players doing," Wilson says.
But Eric Hill says he has no reason to apologize. "I can't apologize for something I didn't do," he says, adding that the allegations are "ridiculous." "You've got some very jealous people out there," he says. "They just fabricated the whole thing." Hill adds, "Me putting my penis on the counter--that's ridiculous."
Hill says he, Williams and another friend "were out riding around and just stopped in for a sandwich." They "had a few daiquiris" but weren't drunk, he says. As they waited, they talked loudly among themselves but said nothing offensive or sexual in nature. Then, says Hill, a female customer "took it upon her own" and called them "assholes." "We retaliated," he says, exchanging words, but nothing else.
Williams expresses disbelief at the allegations, saying, "This is being blown totally out of proportion." Asked about his alleged encounter with Fabricius, Williams says, "This is all new to me. I don't remember anything about a professor."
Hill denies jumping on the car of the Schlotzsky's customer.
"I'm 250 pounds," he says. "If I jumped on her car, it would have been destroyed."
The Cardinals' policy dictates that players can be fined or suspended for rowdy behavior during the regular season, Wilson says, but that policy doesn't apply in the off-season. However, Hill was arrested last November on suspicion of driving while intoxicated--he had been stopped for driving the wrong way on Interstate 10. The next day, he was in the Cardinals' starting line-up. (Hill later pleaded guilty to the offense, his attorney says. Neither Hill nor club officials will comment on that case.)
Wilson says he's spoken to both players and he wants them to apologize in person to the people they offended. But, he says, "they haven't agreed that they're going to go back. I think they're embarrassed."
"I'm 250 pounds," Eric Hill says. "If I jumped on her car, it would have been destroyed.