Falcons' Robinson Plays, Apologizes to Team
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 1, 1999; Page D7
MIAMI, Jan. 31 Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson, who was arrested Saturday night on a misdemeanor charge of soliciting sex from a prostitute, declared his innocence and apologized to his team and family after tonight's Super Bowl.
Robinson, a 35-year-old free safety, started the game after being released from custody Saturday night with a notice to appear in court next month.
"I really believe, and strongly believe, that I will be found innocent of this," Robinson said after Atlanta's 34-19 loss to Denver. "What I really want to do now is apologize first to my lord, Jesus Christ, secondly to my wife and kids, and thirdly to my teammates and the entire NFL organization for the distraction that I may have caused them."
Reading from a prepared text, Robinson said, "I regret I was not maintaining the standards I set for myself. I will have to begin, shortly, to make amends to everyone who knows me. I want to thank all the people . . . a lot of the football players, a lot of the fans, and particularly my family, who supported and prayed for me at this very, very low point." Miami police undercover detectives arrested Robinson for solicitation about 9 p.m. Saturday night, according to Miami police Sgt. C. Camil.
Robinson was driving a car alone when he offered a female undercover officer for the Miami police $40 for oral sex, according to reports. Robinson was released around 11 p.m. to Falcons General Manager Harold Richardson after signing a promise to appear in court within 30 days, according to police.
Camil said the arrest occurred around 9 p.m. near Biscayne Boulevard and 22nd Street in downtown Miami, an area that is frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. Robinson is staying at a hotel near the airport, about 15 minutes west of downtown.
Robinson said the incident did not affect his performance, although he said he was unable to sleep Saturday night.
"There's no doubt that anything that's kind of devastating like that . . . the ramifications are far-reaching," Robinson said. "You have no idea of the gravity of the situation . . . and how it was going to reach people. How it was going to affect [people].
"However, when it came to the game, I was extremely focused today," Robinson said, adding that he may have tried too hard to intercept Broncos quarterback John Elway. "It [the alleged incident] didn't affect my play because it was pretty much therapeutic. . . . I got to do what I do best, which is be a football player."
But the Pro Bowler was beaten on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Elway to wide receiver Rod Smith, something that Robinson said "is going to really haunt me."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had no comment on Robinson's arrest.
In the midst of the events surrounding the incident, Reeves tried to keep his team focused on the game and left the decision about whether to play in Super Bowl XXXIII to Robinson.
"That's a family matter and we're going to treat it as a family matter," Reeves told the Associated Press. "I love Eugene unconditionally."
Falcons linebacker Henri Crockett said he was in shock. "I don't believe it . . . anybody but Eugene," Crockett said today from the hotel lobby. "I don't believe Eugene would do something like that."
Robinson, whose family is with him in Miami, is one of the team's most popular players and is outspoken about his deep religious faith. At a breakfast Saturday, he received the 1999 Bart Starr Award from the religious group Athletes in Action. The award, named for the Hall of Fame quarterback from Green Bay, honors athletes of high moral character.
"Reputation? I can deal with that," said Robinson, who has two children. "The hurt? My wife? That means much, much more to me. I truly do love my wife. I love her, I love my kids. I'm sorry I had to drag her through that type of deal."
Robinson was a four-time man of the year in Seattle, where as a Seahawks player he was involved with Boys and Girls Clubs and the Union Gospel Mission, where he worked with people who have cerebral palsy.
A graduate of Colgate University, Robinson played for the Green Bay Packers the past two years, and this year was a key to the Falcons' success. He is the NFL's career leader among active players with 53 interceptions, including four this season, and was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl.
Robinson knocked down a crucial pass in the NFC championship game two weeks ago to help his team reach its first Super Bowl. In the days leading to tonight's championship, Robinson exhorted teammates to obey curfew and stay focused on the game.
"Unfortunately, even as Christians, we do things wrong," Reeves told the AP. "We're all sinners."
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