An Ex-Raider Fumbles

By Robert Gammon

Andre Rison was once an elite target for NFL quarterbacks.
The Oakland Raiders have never been a haven for choirboys. Indeed, the team has earned a rep over the years as a place for misfits and malcontents. But as comfortable as they are with troubled football stars, Raiders officials are pulling out their hair when it comes to former wide receiver Andre Rison.

The Raiders, you see, owe Rison $100,000 in severance. But team officials can’t just cut a check to the retired player, because he’s the king of deadbeat dads. According to court documents, Rison owes his ex-wife and three ex-girlfriends a total of about $300,000 in back child support and legal fees. Judges around the country have jailed him repeatedly because he’s so derelict in helping his own kids. He’s also indebted to an Atlanta jewelry store for $167,627 worth of bling he bought with bad checks.

The claims on Rison are numerous enough that the team has asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge for guidance as to who should receive the money. Whatever the outcome, someone will be disappointed. After taxes, that $100K will be worth just $67,342.50. “I want to be clear that there’s no dispute between the Raiders and Andre Rison,” Raiders CEO Amy Trask told Full Disclosure. “We would actually rather just write a check to Andre. Unfortunately, we can’t do that because of all the creditors.”

Rison used to be one of the NFL’s elite players. During the early ’90s, some sports pundits even compared him favorably to 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Though Rison spent most of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, he also helped Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl in 1996. After bouncing around the league, he played his last year with the Raiders in 2000. He was drummed out of the NFL the next year after violating its substance-abuse policy.

As a group, male professional sports stars have earned much notoriety in recent decades for playing the field, so to speak. But few “playas” can rival Rison. One of his most notable, and colorful, lady friends was R&B star Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of the band TLC. The tortured singer, who died in a bizarre car accident in Honduras in 2002, burned Rison’s Atlanta mansion to the ground in 1994 after a nasty fight.

After his NFL career ended, Rison has spent much of the past few years dodging process servers employed by the four mothers of his five children. According to court documents filed by the Raiders, he owes money to his ex-wife Tonja Rison of Michigan and former girlfriends Raycoa Handley of Georgia, Racquel Banks of Arizona, and Terese Jones of Kansas.

Rison apparently owes Jones the most — $236,949.96. But he also owes Elif Fine Jewelry of Atlanta $167,627.46. For some reason, Elif accepted checks from Rison in 1998 when he purchased a Rolex watch, diamond jewelry, and a $40,000 gold necklace, adorned with his nickname, “Dre.”

Like many pro stars, Rison pissed away the millions in salary and bonuses he pocketed during his career. But he also has been less than honest about how badly off he really is, according to Randy Kessler, a lawyer for Raycoa Handley. “One time when I was taking his deposition, he said he couldn’t even afford a cell phone,” Kessler said. “But then all of the sudden his pocket started ringing.” Rison’s Michigan attorney David Kallman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In the end, Raiders officials may not need the local court’s help. Last month, several of Rison’s creditors filed for involuntary bankruptcy against him in federal court in Michigan. As such, the bankruptcy court may seize Rison’s severance from the Raiders and distribute it among his former love interests, the lawyers, and the bling merchant.