John Scutellaro, Player Protect

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John Scutellaro:

First, can you let reader know about Player Protect – how the business got started and how you got involved?

I am a retired Hoboken NJ motorcycle Police officer, I had always wanted to find a way to bring the law enforcement community and professional athletes together in a positive way.

While I was an active officer several NY Giant Players owned a night club in Hoboken and I had many occasions to see how the public reacted to athletes in social situations. I as a police offer learned early that the athletes were just normal people like the rest of us but held to a different standard by society. It was through this reality that I wanted to help professional athletes to live their lives as normal as possible.

What are the various services you offer players and what are the most frequently requested services you provide? 

We provide all aspects of security from the most obscure to the obvious. We also provide our services for players family, coaches and their family as well as owners and front office of the teams we work for.  

What constitutes a security risk to you?

Anyone can be a security risk.  In this day and age you never can tell.  Remember part of why we are in business is because athletes were getting robbed leaving clubs.  Sometimes being followed home and accosted right in front of their homes. 

Hangers on can be a problem.  Everyone wants to party with the athletes.  Men want to hang with them.  Women want to hang with them.  Watching out for these people is the hardest.  If they have ulterior motives to getting up close to the athletes there can be all kinds of problems.  Plus if they are treating the athlete nicely it’s hard to tell them that they are in potential danger. 

Which brings us to the most important security risk…  The athlete themselves.  Sometimes our most important job is just saving this guy from himself.  

What are the biggest mistakes you see athletes make in terms of personal security and protection, and how do you help prevent such occurrences? 

Some of the biggest mistakes are just ignoring personal security and protection altogether.  They feel they don’t need it.  They don’t want to hang with “cops”.  We are under contract to several teams and not all the players from the teams use our services.  Even though the team reimburses for them all or part of the service they choose not to use us. 

Sometimes it takes an incident for these guys realize that they need security.  

Without naming names (unless you can), what have been some of the more unusual/dangerous situations you’ve been involved in? 

As a matter of confidentiality and security I must refrain from giving any particulars or names, but I can tell you that many things we have encountered since starting this company only prove to me that you are never too old to see something new!

Most of the things that have surprised me actually come from the women who attempt to gain favor with our athletes. We have overheard many unbelievable and outrageous statements from some of the most unassuming of individuals. We have also intervened on behalf of athletes when wrongfully accused by women seeking to obtain a payday from false accusations.

On most occasions only the athlete knows we are security and the people who try and tag along are shocked when they are told we keep track of everything that happens to protect our clients from any unforeseen situation that might arise.

How do you go about protecting an athlete that is “out on the town”. What steps do you take to ensure they others don’t try to cause trouble for them?

As you know sometimes when you are out you aren’t really paying attention to your surroundings.  Our agents are there to watch the goings on around the athlete to make sure that no one is going to interrupt their time out.  This can include people who want to get friendly with them for good or bad reasons as well as the guy that lost a couple hundred bucks because our athlete fumbled, dropped the ball or made the play to beat a team.. 

First things first is the security getting out of the vehicle on the street.  Is it an event where people know in advance that athletes are going to be there.  Here you might have people looking for autographs or pictures.  We let the athlete dictate what they are comfortable with doing and our agent gets out, checks out the street scene and then and only then does he open the door for the client to get out and move.  Same thing happens leaving   

How do you deal with an athlete who is just starting trouble on their own – of their own accord? How do you intervene in those situations?

Luckily KNOCK ON WOOD the incidents of this are few and far between.  All of our athletes treat our agents with respect and most of them realize that we are on their side.  They embrace having their “own guy” with them. 

The best intervention is to remind them who they represent.  Remind them that they DON’T want to end up on the back or worse the front of the next day’s newspapers and finally if all else fails mentioning the fact that you are going to have to advise the team of the problem if it winds up on a police blotter or in the media usually ends any problem. 

That being said we have NEVER had to go that far.  KNOCK ON WOOD!!  

How do you handle situations that are not physically threatening but might not be “good ideas” for players. For example, if a player has too much to drink and women approach them. Would you ever determine that to be a “security risk” – if so, under what circumstances?

Huge security risk.  Tom Coughlin is famous for saying that nothing good ever happens after 1AM.  Nothing good happens when a player is “feeling good” and a woman approaches him.  She could be looking to make a big score off an athlete. 

Same as the guy who sees the athlete out and wants to fight him just to show that he is stronger.  We don’t know what’s in her mind.  Our guys can only keep a close watch and look out as best they can for that player.   It’s a slippery slope but the best way to handle it is to keep an eye on them and not let the player go off with the woman if it’s deemed that he is not thinking straight. 

But they are adults and things happen between adults…  You’re young.  You’re famous.  You have needs, wants and desires.  It’s a scary situation but sometimes people are just doing what people do. Our athletes will always let us know what their intentions are and ask our opinions.

We have built the trust that is needed to help our players in any situation.

Who are the typical types of people that work for your organization – and how do you find these employees?

Our employees are all security personnel. Our pool comes from both current and former law enforcement. Every employee must be certified by their respective state to perform security. Our agents are hired from local departments where our athletes live and work. This ensures that our agents are familiar with the areas for which they are providing protection details.

How do you work with authorities and how do they perceive your role when issues occur that call for law enforcement to get involved?

Our agents cooperate with law enforcement.  All of our agents are prior law enforcement and know when the situation calls for L.E. involvement they have to cooperate. Any current law enforcement who is working a detail for us is always acting as an active officer and bound by law to respond as such when a situation calls for it. 

Have you worked with any Pittsburgh athletes? 

 The most important aspect of our business is the confidentiality.  Players have to know that they can trust us not to speak to anyone about what they do, who they do it with or where they do it.  If we didn’t have this level of trust then this business would never work.  Our business spreads with word of mouth and one breach of that confidentiality could kill our business.  The player HAS to be comfortable with our agents to allow us to do our job properly.  So to answer your question…  Yes.  and then NO…

We are based in the New York/New Jersey area but we have people all over the country and in Canada that have worked with us.  We get calls for service in many different cities.  Athletes from many different teams from many different sports have used our services.

 Any last thoughts for readers?

We would just like your readers to know that when you see a professional athlete out in a social setting, try and put yourself in their shoes. They are people just like you and me; they are usually being hounded for photos and autographs. Sometimes they would just like to let loose and have fun without being critiqued or criticized.

Living under a microscope isn’t easy, especially for someone who can’t celebrate their 23rd birthday without being picked apart for every movement, every person they talk to, or every drink they might have while out with friends.

 Give these athletes some private time and they will show you that they are people too. Instead of asking for a photo or autograph, try striking up a conversation and seeing if they have any good stories! They might just surprise you!

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