Wingate gets NBA's OK, could be playing tonight


Former Dunbar High School basketball star David Wingate received National Basketball Association clearance to rejoin the San Antonio Spurs yesterday and may play with the team tonight in San Antonio, Texas, against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I think the reception David will receive will be very, very positive," said Spurs chairman Red McCombs said. "The whole case has had a lot of media coverage. The harshness of it has been experienced."

Last week, a Howard County state's attorney declined to try Wingate on rape and sexual assault charges stemming from an alleged incident with a 17-year-old Baltimore girl. Last month, in San Antonio, a Bexar County prosecutor dropped a rape case against Wingate. The 22-year-old woman who made the allegations reached a settlement with Wingate in a civil suit.

Wingate, a restricted free agent, was re-signed by the Spurs Friday for the remainder of this season, plus two additional years. Yesterday, Wingate met in New York with the NBA's director of security Howard Balmer and general counsel Gary Bettman.

"If I had asked the league not to recommend that David return this year, I think it would have weighed heavily in the case," McCombs said. "But I requested that David come back now, and the league authorized us to do the contract."

McCombs said the team had received several telephone calls complaining of Wingate's reinstatement, but he claimed the vast majority of Spurs fans support the move.

"We really don't expect David to help us much this year," McCombs said. "On balance, I'm hoping we're not hurt because of the distraction. The season is two-thirds over and we've done well."

In a statement released by the Spurs, Wingate thanked the team for offering him a second chance, vowed to work in the San Antonio community and pledged to "perform on and off the court as an upstanding example of good character and solid moral fiber."

"As I move about in athletic circles, I will counsel not only professional athletes but high school, college and amateur athletes about their role in the public as well as in the conduct of their private lives," he said. "I've got a story tell, and if it will help one soul, then I must tell it."

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