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Yankees Sued For Gay Bashing

A former New York Yankees clubhouse worker claims he was the victim of gay-bashing by players and maintains he was fired because he has the AIDS virus.

Paul Priore filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in the Bronx on July 29, contending that Yankees relief pitchers Mariano Rivera and Jeff Nelson and former reliever Bob Wickman made anti-gay remarks and played cruel pranks on him.

The 34-year-old former equipment man said the players threatened "to perform assaultive and sexual acts" on him between April and July 1996. At one point, Nelson and Wickman waved a baseball bat at Priore and threatened him, the lawsuit charged.

Priore, who began working for the team in 1990, was fired Aug. 1, 1997. He was supervised by his father, longtime equipment manager Nick Priore, who himself was fired by the Yankees late last year.

The team said both father and son were fired for performance reasons,

"I don't want to talk about it," Nick Priore told the New York Post. Paul Priore was not at home, his father added.

The lawsuit also accused two team executives, general manager Brian Cashman and major league administrator for baseball operations Thomas May, of ignoring the alleged abuse and falsely charging Priore with stealing team uniforms so they could fire him because he is HIV-positive. Cashman was an assistant general manager at the time.

Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone called the suit "ludicrous and meritless."

"Our normal policy would be not to comment on any pending litigation," he said. "But this is so baseless that it doesn't even merit adhering to that policy."

He said the Yankees have a sexual harassment policy and players are required to abide by it.

Wickman, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, was with his team in Cincinnati and not immediately available to comment.

"I've never heard anything like that," Nelson told the Daily News. "Nobody did it. ... It's sad. I guess nowadays you can sue for anything."

Rivera declined comment.

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