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CHILD CUSTODY BATTLE SNARES BASKETBALL PLAYER IN WNBA.

Byline: Justin Hyde Associated Press

Exposing what some women's advocates say is a double standard, a basketball player with the new WNBA is in a custody battle for her 3-year-old daughter because her ex-husband says she's on the road too much.

Pamela McGee, a 35-year-old member of the Los Angeles Sparks, is awaiting a judge's ruling on whether her career interferes too much with her duties as a mother.

``The whole problem is right now, it's her career,'' said Peter Lucido, an attorney for McGee's ex-husband, the Rev. Kevin E. Stafford of Mount Clemens. ``There are a lot of sacrifices you need to make to be a good basketball player. You need to make a lot of sacrifices to be a good parent as well.''

McGee and Stafford divorced in 1996 and agreed to joint custody of their daughter, Imani, until they could resolve who should have permanent custody.

Imani went to California with McGee for the WNBA's first season, in 1997, and stayed with Stafford's parents. Stafford got court-ordered temporary custody at the beginning of this year and kept Imani in Michigan.

Macomb County Judge Peter J. Maceroni ruled this week that Stafford will continue to have temporary custody pending an investigation by social workers.

McGee, who has a 10-year-old son by a different father, did not return calls for comment. Her mother, Diane McGee of Flint, said McGee ``cried every time she had to leave her baby.''

``People seem to think since she's playing for the WNBA, she's getting NBA money. She's not. It hurts her financially to fly back here,'' Diane McGee said. ``He's here with Imani, but her opportunities are back in California.''

McGee's salary was not immediately known, but she was making an estimated $40,000 during her first season.

Sparks officials said Imani has never traveled with the team. McGee has not said how she would take care of Imani while on the road, but her 10-year-old son is cared for by a nanny in California during the basketball season.

The WNBA season is only a little over two months in the summer, but Lucido said McGee's travel schedule raises several concerns. He said Imani missed her first day of preschool Tuesday because McGee had delayed returning her to Stafford after a weekend visit.

Nine players in the WNBA have children, and their profession has never before been an issue in custody hearings, said Alice McGillion, a WNBA spokeswoman.

``If you were to just take a step back and compare this situation to a middle manager for accounting firm that travels, it's vastly different,'' she said. For WNBA players, ``the schedule is known before you travel. It's three months.''

Elizabeth Toledo, a vice president of the National Organization for Women, said working travel shouldn't automatically count against a parent.

``It's not unusual for women to face a double standard,'' Toledo said. ``A woman who pursues a career is often challenged, whereas the norm has been for generations and generations that men would have a career outside the home, and they would continue to be fit parents.''

McGee and her twin sister, Paula, were standout basketball players in Flint and at the University of Southern California, where they helped win two national championships. McGee was also a member of the gold-medal Olympic team in 1984.

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PHOTO WNBA player Pamela McGee is in a child custody battle with her ex-husband over her travel schedule. Women's advocates say the dispute symbolizes a double standard.

Paul Warner/Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 19, 1998
Words:584
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