When Buffalo Bills running back Travis Henry pleaded guilty to attempted sexual misconduct Friday, he may have been waving goodbye to a big part of a lucrative future.
Professional athletes often earn big second incomes doing endorsements and public speaking engagements. But Henry won't see those for a long time now, according to Bob Williams, the president of an Illinois company that brings corporations and organizations together with athletes for advertising and speaking events.
"It will follow him throughout his career," said Williams, of Burns Sports & Celebrities Inc., an Evanston, Ill. "The extent it follows him will largely depend on him. A lot will depend on the fact there's no jail sentence involved, and how contrite he is.
"I think we've shown with the Marv Albert case (in which the nationally known broadcaster was caught up in a sex scandal) and some of our other sports folks, that we're very forgiving if people will step up to the plate and say, 'I screwed up, I made a bad mistake and I want to make amends.' "
Henry is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 9, and court officials said that community service is a likely possibility for his misdemeanor conviction.
Henry wasn't available for comment after he pleaded guilty Friday before of Town Justice Gerald P. Gorman in Hamburg Town Court, but his attorney, Terrence M. Connors, said he hopes Henry's sentence will be minimal.
Henry was accused of having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl in his home Sept. 23, authorities said. The girl, a runaway from the Hopevale residential facility for girls whom Henry had met at a Camp Road gas station, told Henry she was almost 18.
Under state law, an adult can face a statutory rape charge for having sex with someone younger than 17, regardless of whether there is consent.
"I do think that when the judge has the opportunity to review all the facts and circumstances surrounding this case that he'll be able to fashion an appropriate sentence," Connors said. "He took personal responsibility for his poor judgment, his mistake. He wants to look forward, not backward, and perform as well as he can as a member of this community and the Buffalo Bills."
Connors said Henry would be worthy of lenient treatment because there was no element of force and no lack of consent.
"The only thing that makes this a crime is the age discrepancy," Connors said.
While Connors described other Bills as being supportive of Henry, team management said in a statement that the Bills would reserve comment until Henry is sentenced.
Meanwhile, Williams said that for Henry, a first-year player, the conviction will hinder his ability to become a major factor in the community. "He's not going to be going out to schools and chambers of commerce and Boy Scout councils," Williams said. "And from an endorsement perspective, where he's on a regional level, he's done."