Tyrann Mathieu and his family are asking for a retraction and apology from Sports Illustrated after a club owner and an events promoter in Baton Rouge came forward to challenge SI's cover story on the Honey Badger.
Sports Illustrated's new cover story revolves around speculation that Mathieu received illegal perks for promoting a club called The Palace. Now the club owner says SI has its facts wrong, and a club promoter says the magazine offered him $2500 to lie for the story.
"The guy from Sports Illustrated tried to bribe me, offered me $2500 just to say things that really didn't take place. He wanted to know if we gave Tyrann free drinks, and we don't give anyone free drinks. And also he wanted to know if we let him in for free, and I told him no," says Xavier Williams, who adds he declined SI'S money.
Palace club owner Torrey Lewis says he told Sports Illustrated Mathieu never received free benefits, like access to VIP areas or free admission, as the article alleges: "They stand in line. They don't get no special privilege. We don't even have a VIP area."
Tyrann's parents, Tyrone and Sheila Mathieu, say Sports Illustrated's tactics to "get a story at any cost are inexcusable," but not unexpected after weeks of being contacted by the magazine and one of the article's authors, Peter Thamel.
"It didn't surprise me because he was aggressive when he came to the door. He just seemed to be a person you just don't trust," says Tyrone Mathieu.
After Thamel contacted the Mathieu family at least 12 times, according to their estimation, urging them to do an interview, Tyrone Mathieu had an attorney contact SI to ask the magazine "to stop harassing them" or face further legal action, such as a restraining order.
The magazine's visit to Tyrone Mathieu's elderly mother's house was the final insult. "She's elderly and medically compromised. It's really hard for her to get up and to the door. When I heard he went there, that's when I got really upset... I just feel like it's not much to ask someone to leave you alone and give you your privacy and let you live your life," says Sheila Mathieu.
A portion of the SI article directly quotes Tyrann Mathieu speaking with a fan as he walked to the only LSU game he's been to this season. Since it's a direct quote with no attribution, Tyrone Mathieu reasons Thamel must have been within ear shot of his son to hear the conversation: "I asked Tyrann if he knew that guy was right there, and was it true that he actually had that conversation in the article? He said 'Ya Pops, I had that conversation. I remember the girl asking me if I was going out, and I told her I didn't do that anymore.' I asked Tyrann if he knew that reporter Peter was right there, and he said 'No, I didn't.'"
"It's really, really hard as a mother to lay down at night and go to sleep when you have this fear in your mind that your child is being bothered and stalked," says Sheila Mathieu, who describes the ordeal with Sports Illustrated as exhausting and traumatic.
Although Tyrann is upset at becoming an unsuspecting cover boy, his parents say he's getting good grades, going to work three days a week at his part-time construction job and working out in his spare time.
As far as his football future, that dream is still alive and well but the Mathieu family says it's not the priority right now.