Earlier this week and on a worldwide stage, Carolina Panthers Kony Ealy produced a Super Bowl performance by a defensive lineman that may not be ever matched.
Now, back in Charlotte, he may soon have to see a judge about a dog.
Ealy is the subject of a weird, little lawsuit filed by a former Mecklenburg sports bar owner. Kris Johnson says Ealy and his brother, Danny “Dogman” Jones, conned him out of $3,000. The nickname is relevant – the dispute revolves around a dog.
Not just any dog. According to the December complaint, Johnson paid half the price for an African Boerboel. If you aren’t familiar with the breed, picture a Toyota Prius – but with four legs and slightly better head room.
Johnson says he was cutting the grass in front of an $800,000 south Charlotte home he was trying to sell when “two big dudes” walked up wanting to look inside. It turns out Ealy lived nearby.
In his lawsuit, Johnson says he owns a rare and pricey Mercedes – one of only four in Charlotte. He alleges that the combination of the house and the car made him a target for fraud.
Soon, the three men began spending time together, and Johnson says he introduced Ealy and Jones to his business connections and friends. All the while, he claims the pair were pressuring him to invest in their plans to breed and sell Boerboels, which can weigh more than 200 pounds. They told him many Panthers players were eager to buy a pup, and that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police planned to use the dog exclusively. They promised their business would clear $35,000 a litter and more than $1 million a year.
All they needed, the suit says, was $6,000 from Johnson for a breeding female.
Johnson said he was interested but not that interested. On July 12, he wrote a $3,000 check – and then ... well, the venture was flagged for delay of game. No dog. No breeding. No pups.
The plaintiff says he repeatedly asked for a refund before his partners stopped taking his calls.
In the meantime, he learned how Dogman got his name. According to a book that Johnson says he read only after he wrote the check, Jones sold bulldogs to the godfathers of the “Black Mafia Family” in St. Louis, later expanding his business model to include cocaine. He got out after being shot 17 times and left for dead.
Ealy could not be reached for comment. Attorney Kenneth Raynor says the player and his brother “dispute the allegations ... and I plan on vigorously defending the lawsuit.”
Before the Super Bowl, Johnson told me he was not trying to exploit Ealy’s celebrity. “All I want is my money back.”
One wonders what Johnson, a Washington fan, thinks about his short-lived business partner’s coming-out party Sunday – or whether he could cheer for Ealy or his hometown team.
In general, very little comes between a man and his football – except perhaps a dog.