The story of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant's high-priced dinner is amusing, but more troubling than cute, and not necessarily the fault of Bryant.
To review, Bryant -- who refused to submit to the rookie ritual of carrying the shoulder pads of veteran players in training camp -- agreed to take his offensive teammates out to dinner instead when fellow wide receiver Roy Williams decided that the team's defensive players should also be wined and dined on Bryant's dime. Not surprisingly, the team overindulged in full gluttony, leaving Bryant a tab of just under $55,000 -- more than the country's average annual household income.
Unfortunately, the story fuels the perception of out-of-touch athletes living for the moment, out of touch with reality and frittering away money they will need later on in life. Williams, who has had windfalls from both the Lions as the 7th pick in the draft and the Cowboys with a $54 million contract ($26 million guaranteed), has made his money. Bryant, with a five-year contract worth under $12 million with $8.3 million guaranteed as the 24th pick in the draft, has not.
Bryant's 2010 pre-tax salary is $320,000. He spent 17% of that on dinner the other night, about the amount of three of his 17 paychecks for this season (to be fair, he did receive $2 million of bonus money earlier). I don't want to be too paternalistic here, but with what's going on with the economy and the ongoing fight between the players and the owners about how to split $8.5 billion in gross revenue, this story highlights the excess in the lives of professional athletes at a time where it is least needed. The NFLPA wants no stories like this out there now.
Bryant was admittedly in a no-win situation after refusing to carry Williams' pads in training camp. Had he skipped out on this bill with his teammates watching, we can only imagine the outcry about him being a diva and a bad teammate. I blame Williams more than Bryant for this exercise in excess.
Hope the Cowboys enjoyed the meal.
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