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Former NFL Star Bennie Blades Pays over $1 Million in Child Support, Yet Is Jailed for Being a ‘Deadbeat Dad’

September 11th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks, MA for Fathers & Families

“Nobody who knows me well can ever say I wasn’t a father to these kids.”–former NFL Star Bennie Blades

“They couldn’t be any closer”–the mother of one of Blades’ children, describing the boy’s relationship with Bennie Blades, his father

How can a man pay $1.3 million after-tax dollars in child support and then be arrested for being a “deadbeat dad”? It happened to former NFL star Bennie Blades in 2005.

Blades was working as a substitute teacher in Broward County, Florida when he was arrested. His football career was cut short by a painful injury, and even his NFL retirement pension was taken from him for child support. Blades was by all accounts a dedicated father, who was even publicly praised by his exes after his arrest.

Blades certainly made mistakes. However, the child support system and family law system often milks high-earners with transitory incomes, such as professional athletes and entertainers, leaving them with little after their careers are over. During Blades’ career, he was apparently paying half his after-tax income in child support.

As Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg explains in his column below, Blades has a strong relationship with his children. His mistreatment at the hands of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is outrageous, and symbolizes much of what’s wrong with the child support system.

In the eyes of the state, Bennie Blades is a deadbeat dad
Detroit Free Press, 4/29/05

DETROIT _ On Feb. 17, at the behest of the State of Michigan, police arrested a substitute teacher at Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla.

The substitute teacher spent a week in Broward County Jail in Florida. Then he was shipped off to Michigan, almost two weeks on a bus, stopping only to eat fast food or bologna sandwiches at jails along the way.

He was not allowed to bathe or brush his teeth. As the bus transported accused criminals throughout the Eastern states, he was forced to sit all day and night, which was extremely painful because the substitute teacher has chipped vertebrae in his neck, an injury he suffered when he played safety in the NFL.

“I’m like, ‘This is very humiliating,’” recalled Bennie Blades, a Detroit Lions star from 1988-96. “You had to eat with your hands shackled basically down to your lap.”

When he arrived in Michigan on March 8, 19 days after his arrest, Blades was still wearing the same Old Navy blue jeans, printed blue shirt and white Pumas he was wearing when he was arrested.

Now Blades, who has been released on bail, faces two charges. The first is felony non-support for his daughter Ashley, who lives with her mother, Yolande Healey, in Southfield, Mich. At one point, Blades owed nearly $400,000 in child support for Ashley. She is one of his six children with six women.

The other charge is for failing to appear at a Jan. 7 court hearing in the case.

Mix those ingredients together: Former NFL star. Nine million dollars in career earnings. Six kids with six women. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support.

And a state attorney general who has made deadbeat dads a top priority.

And one mother who wants Blades to pay up.

And three other mothers who say he doesn’t have the money.

Oh, and don’t forget those six kids. Please don’t forget them.

They all had something at stake that February day when the cops showed up at Piper High. And as Bennie Blades was whisked out of the school parking lot, he didn’t bother asking what he should do with his car, a 1994 Honda Accord with more than 135,000 miles on it.

“We just left it there,” Blades said with a laugh. “I don’t think anybody is going to steal that.”

When Blades was first arrested for this case, in November 2003, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox received a rousing standing ovation from himself.

“Once again let me send this message: Deadbeats that shirk their parental responsibilities risk incarceration,” Cox said in a press release. “Whether that parent works in construction or played safety for the Detroit Lions, failure to pay child support will have consequences.”

It is easy to paint Blades as a villain.

That is, if you’re looking for villains.

But what if you are more worried about Bianca Blades, Bennie’s 11-year-old daughter, who sees her dad regularly?

Read the full article here.

[Families Against Confiscatory Child Support is the national voice for fair and reasonable child support. To learn more, go to www.faccsonline.org or contact them at contact@faccsonline.org.]

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