I’m no Terrell Owens fan and I have no interest in kicking a brother when he’s down, but the former NFL wide receiver known as T.O. isn’t winning any points after revealing in this month’s GQ cover story that after earning about $80 million during his career as a football player, he’s now broke, impossibly unemployed and being sued by four different women who bore children he fathered but has no relationship with.
The story, “Love Me, Hate Me, Just Don’t Ignore Me,” details Terrell’s tragic crash and burn on and off the field, and takes great pains to lay out why the “T.O. Show” Reality TV star may be the most misunderstood dude on the planet—lulling readers into a “maybe this guy isn’t so bad after all” love fest until it gets to the part where Terrell tries to explain why he’s never met his youngest child, a 5-year-old, has a fractured relationship with the older three, and thinks the mothers of his children are out to get him. From the story, by writer Nancy Hass:
Friends may not be calling, or teams, but lawyers, a slew of them, definitely have him on speed dial. Especially those who represent the four women to whom he pays a total of $44,600 a month in child support for his four children, ages 5 to 12: “If there’s anything I’m sorry about, it’s getting involved with all that.” He never actually dated any of the women, he says. One was a one-night stand, the others “repeat offenders.” Owens, who has never been married, concedes he is “not a very good judge of character.” Still, he “never suspected they were the types to do what they done in the past year.”
Last summer, when the money started to dry up for real and the extent of his financial disaster became clear, he reduced the amount he paid to each of the women. Three of them sued him. When he failed to show up for a court date with the mother of his oldest child, Tariq, because it conflicted with his public tryout, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. “She wouldn’t reschedule,” he says, his hands reaching out unconsciously as if strangling an imaginary neck. “She’d pressed me in a deposition about if I intended to try to get on another team, but then when I do the workout, do what I can to get work, this is what she does.”
Now he is in court with all four women, whom he lumps together like one big bloodsucking blob. None of them are being fair, he says: “They know I’m not working; they know the deal.” Although he never established regular visitation with any of the children through the courts, he says he sees the eldest three as much as he can when their mothers allow it. So bitter is his relationship with the mother of the youngest child, a son, that he has never met the boy.
*insert image of Denene making dead fish eyes here*
Okay, I’m sorry: this man is the poster freakin’ child for men who carelessly spend, yap and lay without giving a second’s thought about the repercussions—how their actions will affect people beyond the five seconds of thought they put into the madness they create with their careless antics. It’s one thing to watch “The T.O. Show” and see him running through women, saying all kinds of sexist crap to his assistants, Kita and Moe, crying in his mother’s arms about how his friends stole his money and pouring out his heart over how, at 38, he’s still devastated by the fact that he had no relationship with his father, who lived with his wife and children just across the street from the then-young and fatherless T.O. Grown folk can take the shenanigans for what it is and keep it moving.
But what about these babies? How do you recognize and acknowledge the pathology your father wrought and turn around and visit it on your own seeds? Better yet, how do you lay down with not one, not two, not three, but four women you barely know and don’t give a rat’s booty about, and put yourself in the position of having to care for them and the children you made with them into perpetuity—no matter if you’re a millionaire or a broke, unemployed, former football star?
If Terrell “I’m In Hell” Owens is not a textbook case for why we need to talk to our sons about their responsibility to plan their own reproduction—to be present participants in deciding when and with whom they’ll have a baby and the consequences and responsibilities that come with doing such—I don’t know who is.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.