Dez Bryant apparently began living the lifestyle of a well-heeled professional athlete long before he became a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
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According to a pair of lawsuits, Bryant loaded up on gold and diamond jewelry plus tickets to watch the Cowboys and Mavericks in the playoffs, and LeBron James playing in Dallas. And he allegedly got it all on credit with the understanding he’d settle up once he signed his first pro contract.
Eight months after Bryant struck a deal that included $8.5 million guaranteed from the Cowboys, he’s been sued by people who say they are tired of waiting to get paid.
In the lawsuits, a man from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a New York company are seeking $861,350, plus interest and attorneys fees. All the receipts are dated between June 2009 and June 2010.
Bryant’s attorney, state Sen. Royce West, declined comment on the specifics in the lawsuits, but noted they are ”sheer allegations.”
”What we’re seeing is Dez Bryant being singled out,” West said. ”There are lawsuits. They will be resolved.”
Bryant is a dazzling receiver and punt returner on the field. He also tends to be at the center of sensational stories, from getting stuck picking up the tab for a $54,896 dinner with teammates to a Dolphins executive being punished for asking in a pre-draft interview whether Bryant’s mother was a prostitute.
Last week, Bryant made headlines again for getting into a ruckus at an upscale Dallas mall. A shouting match with an off duty police officer, stemming from him and his friends wearing their pants too low, led to him being banned from the mall for a few days.
In the fallout from that, Deion Sanders said he and Bryant were no longer on speaking terms. Bryant was playing at Oklahoma State when Sanders tried befriending him; Bryant later lied to the NCAA about having had a meal with Sanders, which led to him being suspended for much of his final season in college.
Under NCAA rules, Oklahoma State could be subject to sanctions if a member of the university was aware of the agreement between Bryant and Hunt at the time it occurred. Bryant played in three games as a junior before being ruled ineligible by the NCAA for lying to NCAA officials about his interaction with Deion Sanders.
The alleged shopping spree began before Bryant’s junior season at Oklahoma State.
In his lawsuit, Eleow Hunt of suburban Colleyville said he extended a line of credit to Bryant on the request of David Wells, the player’s adviser and a co-defendant in the case. The year before, Wells had allegedly done the same thing for his cousin, Michael Crabtree, then a standout receiver at Texas Tech who went on to become a first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
In both deals, the tab was due once the player cashed in with an NFL team.
”Mr. Crabtree ended up doing exactly what he said he would do, so my client felt pretty comfortable about how this worked,” said Hunt’s attorney, Beth Ann Blackwood. ”Both (Bryant and Wells) continually assured him up to about last July that he was going to get paid. Then Mr. Bryant dropped off the radar screen and Mr. Wells about a month later. Neither would respond to my client.”
Hunt is seeking repayment for $588,500 in watches, earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry; $15,850 for NBA and NFL tickets; and $11,000 in loans. Wells has repaid $15,000 of the original loan amount, the suit says.
In the second lawsuit, the New York jeweler – A+A Diamonds, doing business as Rafaello and Co. – is seeking $246,000 for jewelry. The company’s attorney, Mike Bower, said ”we are working with Mr. Bryant’s counsel to work out a resolution.”
Hunt’s lawsuit was filed in September. It was amended last week, before the mall incident.