*Former Dallas Cowboys star Deion Sanders, who stopped mentoring current team member Dez Bryant months ago, strongly criticized the receiver in reaction to the criminal trespass warning given to Bryant over the weekend at a Dallas mall.
“I’m upset but not surprised whatsoever,” Sanders said on The Ben & Skin Show on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas.
Sanders described Bryant’s behavior at NorthPark Center on Saturday as “ignorant.”
As previously reported, the 2010 first-round pick was issued the warning after an off-duty police officer requested that Bryant and his friends pull up their pants because their underwear was showing and Bryant responded with repeated profanity, according to the police report.
Bryant, who was stung by Sanders’ comments, is adamant that the only thing he did wrong at the mall is use profanity toward a police officer, whom Bryant claims shoved him in the back as he was escorting him outside.
“I feel like the cop was in the wrong here more than anything,” Bryant told ESPNDallas.com on Friday. “Don’t just make it seem like I went off and had a hot head for no reason. That’s the only thing I did wrong — I used profanity.”
Still Sanders said Bryant has issues stemming from his difficult childhood.
“He needs help. He needs help,” Sanders said. “I told the Cowboys from Day One that he needs help. Matter of fact, they have a team in place to help him. But you cannot tell a grown man what to do.”
Sanders, who was recently selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and serves as a mentor to many NFL players, said he ended his relationship with Bryant over the summer due to the receiver’s dishonesty.
“I wish Deion would come to me as a man and talk to me,” Bryant told ESPNDallas.com. “I’ve been reaching out to Deion. I’ve never done anything wrong to Deion or disrespected him. I’ve never lied to Deion.”
The NCAA suspended Bryant in September 2009 for the rest of that season for lying about having lunch with Sanders. No other rules violations were found, but Sanders said it bothered him that he took a lot of the blame for Bryant’s lie.
However, Sanders said the relationship continued until he became concerned that Bryant could negatively influence children in Sanders’ youth program. Sanders added that he felt like he could not help Bryant.
“I don’t have a problem with you lying to me. That’s one thing,” Sanders said. “But when you lie to yourself as a man, you have a serious problem and that’s where this kid is. And I can’t condone it. I really can’t. It tarnishes everything else I’m trying to develop in these kids [in his youth program]. I can’t allow you to poison other kids that I’m trying to mentor and take to another level.”
Bryant is still banned from the mall, NorthPark Center, for an undetermined length of time, according to officials.
However, NorthPark Center officials said they would like to meet with Bryant’s attorney, Texas Senator Royce West, to solve the issue. West has been at the state capital, Austin, conducting state business and hasn’t been able to speak with NorthPark Center officials. David Wells, an adviser for Bryant, met with NorthPark Center officials on Wednesday.
David Margulies, a spokesman for NorthPark Center, said Bryant didn’t have his pants sagging but his friend did, confirming what Bryant told ESPNDallas.com.
“We would like to have everything resolved,” Margulies said. “The attorneys have been playing phone tag if you will.”
The trespass warning can’t be rescinded, but NorthPark Center can allow Bryant to return to the shopping center if he doesn’t cause any trouble. It would be up to NorthPark Center security to determine if they want to call police.
Bryant has not returned to the shopping center since Saturday’s incident.
Meanwhile, Bryant said Sanders has refused to talk to him since he backed out of his marketing deal with Under Armour, a popular shoe and apparel company that also outfits Sanders’ youth athletic programs. The deal fell apart, according to Bryant, because he determined during last year’s minicamps that the company’s cleats weren’t the right fit for his feet.
Bryant, who wears Nike cleats but does not have a shoe deal, said Sanders has ignored repeated text messages from him since then.
“I never knew the reason for Deion not saying anything to me,” Bryant said. “The only thing I can believe is that when I stopped talking to Under Armour, Deion stopped talking to me. I never knew what Prime’s problem was.
“That’s my decision. That has nothing to do with Prime. That made me feel he must be getting something from Under Armour.”
Sanders praised the effort of Wells, whom Sanders has had a relationship with since playing for the Cowboys in the 1990s. But Sanders made it clear that he has no intention of being involved in Bryant’s life again.
“I haven’t spoken to the kid,” Sanders said. “I have no desire to speak to the kid. In regards to me, I can forgive, but I can’t forget. You can’t tarnish the other things that I have going on and the other kids. It’s sort of like I can’t allow something to poison the fruit of many other kids. I can’t do it, so I cut off those ties a long time ago.”
Bryant said he no longer wants a relationship with Sanders, one of his idols as a child growing up in Lufkin, Texas. Bryant just wants a man-to-man conversation with his former mentor to discuss their differences, especially after learning of Sanders’ pointed comments Friday.
“It bothers me more than anything,” Bryant said. “I’ve looked up to Deion my whole life. I’ve never done anything wrong to him.
“The only thing I can think of is the Under Armour situation. That’s the only thing. He didn’t want me to leave Under Armour, but I had to do what’s best for me. That’s the whole truth.”