The idea of “40 Yards of Gold” is a good one - gather a group of NFL players to race, head to head, to determine who is the fastest player in the league.
But in reality, “40 Yards of Gold,” held almost three weeks ago, has been a disaster.
Investor: Not my fault players haven’t been paid
Seemingly hastily thrown together and pushed into being, “40 Yards of Gold” was held on June 29 in Miami.
In-person attendance for the races were sparse, with one report putting the number of fans on hand at the BB&T Center at 2,000-3,000. It was available via pay-per-view for $39.95, though it’s unclear how many people paid that price.
San Francisco 49ers receiver - and Olympic track and field athlete - Marquise Goodwin unsurprisingly was the winner, beating Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson in the final.
As the winner, Goodwin was promised a $1 million prize. But neither he nor any of the participants have received a penny.
The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan has a story Tuesday in which he identifies the event’s primary financial backer; that man says don’t blame him for the fact that no one has gotten money yet, and he’s owed money too.
‘I’m still waiting on my money’
The two co-founders of “40 Yards of Gold” have previously refused to say who their top investor was. But sources told Kaplan it was Farzin Morena, a 40-year-old Californian, who was the primary backer of the event, and when contacted by Kaplan, Morena affirmed that he was.
“I gave them my information, they used my [credit] cards and did everything they were supposed to do,” Morena said. “But I’m still waiting on my money.”
Morena wouldn’t tell Kaplan how much money he’d put up or whether he had stopped his funding, leading to the $2 million in prize money going unpaid.
One of Kaplan’s sources said Morena’s investment was just over $1 million.
It sounds like Morena didn’t know much before he decided to “lend” (his words) that much money to the event creators.
“I am going to tell you right now, buddy, the only thing I had in this was to lend money and I was going to get it back,” Morena said. “Like, I didn’t know nothing about … it wasn’t laid out to me like, ‘OK, we need to pay for this, we need to pay for that.’ It was laid out to me, ‘Listen, we need this money and we will pay you back this much.’”
He added, “I don’t even watch freakin’ sports. You know, like, I don’t even know what’s going on.”
Who was behind the event?
The co-founders of the event are Charles Stewart, a mortgage broker, and Dr. Alijah Bradley, a dentist. The two University of Michigan graduates say they spent six to seven years on the sprint event, but it only came together over the last few months.
In May, veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said he’d race any NFL player, anywhere, for $10,000. The idea picked up steam from there.
When it came down to it, Ginn was a no-show at the event.
Stewart and Bradley apparently met Morena through a mutual friend; neither Stewart nor Bradley responded to Kaplan’s requests for comment.
“I don’t even know these guys,” Morena said. “I just met these guys almost, not even two months ago, maybe, maybe 48 days. Like in May, actually. So, like I said, it’s a tough situation.
“These guys were in over their heads.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Morena is an adviser for software company Zypp and a district energy partner for Tesla. Kaplan wrote that a public records search showed he also has medical and lending businesses, was sued by a bank in Texas three years ago for filing a $500,000 lien on a house that the bank is still trying to foreclose on, and three years ago Morena sued Bank of America for $100,000 plus emotional damages, contending that BofA closed his bank accounts and credit cards because it believed he is Iranian and Muslim.
At the end of the day, 16 NFL players and free agents put their health on the line. Bragging rights were part of the appeal, but so was the chance to win some money. If there was any hope of making this an annual event, that seems like a long shot now.
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