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.
Pulling a Gingrich
The long-struggling Oakland school system earned the highest test score gains last year of any large district in California, but don't expect a repeat this year. The primary architect of that impressive turnaround, State Administrator Randy Ward, was forced out of his job last summer (see "The Plot to Oust Randy Ward," feature, 8/16). As short-sighted as that decision was, however, it pales in comparison to what happened to one of Ward's top lieutenants, Katrina Scott-George. She was abruptly fired while on medical leave for breast cancer.
Scott-George was hired in 2002 by former Schools Superintendent Dennis Chaconas to develop radical reforms for Oakland schools. She worked on the district's small-schools program and was the driving force behind Oakland's groundbreaking decision to equalize funding for all campuses. After Chaconas was fired in the state takeover, Ward was so impressed with Scott-George that he made her his special assistant.
In 2005, Ward placed Scott-George in charge of redesigning the district's dysfunctional central office, a program that later became known as Expect Success! But in June of that year, Scott-George was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer had spread into her bones and other organs.
She underwent chemotherapy and other treatments, and promptly returned to her fifteen-hour-a-day routine. Some people, both inside and outside the district, even thought she had a shot at replacing Ward after State Superintendent Jack O'Connell refused to extend Ward's contract. But O'Connell is not an educational reformer. He appointed Kimberly Statham, another of Ward's top deputies, who shares O'Connell's more traditional views.
Statham and Scott-George, who has an aggressive, hard-charging style, never got along. So when Statham took over last August, Scott-George felt her job had become untenable and the reforms were being gutted. A few weeks later, the despondent educator went on a one-month medical leave. Then, on September 8, she e-mailed Statham, saying that although she felt her "work environment had become hostile and that it was virtually impossible" to do her job, she intended to return to her post two weeks later.
Statham was obviously uncomfortable with an unhappy Scott-George as her special assistant, but the state administrator could easily have reassigned her to another job. Instead, she told Scott-George in a September 20 e-mail not to bother coming back to work because she was fired. Statham provided no reason for the termination, which cost Scott-George her medical benefits, plus any chance she had a state pension and long-term disability payments. "It was cold after putting in five years of my life," Scott-George said in an interview.
Last month, Scott-George filed suit against Statham and the school district, demanding reinstatement and back pay. In the suit, she argues that the district violated state law by firing her without cause. The school district's general counsel, Roy Combs, refused to comment on the suit or the allegations, but according to court documents, he maintains that Scott-George was not protected by firing rules that govern other district employees.
Scott-George said she plans to file a second lawsuit against the district for terminating her while on medical leave. She's especially angry with O'Connell, Statham's supervisor, because his wife underwent surgery last year for a brain tumor. Consequently, he has first-hand knowledge of what cancer patients endure, and yet he allowed Statham to fire Scott-George anyway. "That got me really ticked me off," she said.