Braylon Edwards Claims South Bar Employees Lied About Aug. 1 Fight
The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver is suing the bar for extortion and slander after it claimed he was involved in a fight that sent two bouncers to the hospital.
Braylon Edwards — a West Bloomfield resident, wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and former University of Michigan standout — is suing South Bar and three of its employees for extortion and slander in connection with an Aug. 1 fight there.
Edwards said South's claim that he was "present and involved" in a fight that ended with two arrests and two bouncers in the hospital was false. Plus, Edwards said the bad press and ensuing investigation cost him a $15 million contract with an NFL team, forcing him to sign a $1 million contract with San Francisco.
Edwards is suing South Bar for $14 million.
In a civil suit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, Edwards names three South employees — David Ellis, Matt Schmante and Phillip Williams — who, he said, demanded money from him or else they'd go to the press and file a complaint with the police.
"The events of that evening in question, including the false and malicious allegations directed towards Braylon, have damaged his reputation and earnings potential," Edwards' attorney David Russell said Wednesday in a statement.
The fight in question erupted during the early morning hours of Aug. 1, Birmingham police reports show. According to police, South Bar bouncers were trying to break up the fight when one bouncer was stabbed in the neck with a fork and another was stabbed in the hand with a pocketknife. The two men who the bouncers say stabbed them — Tre Wright of Detroit and Earl Jerome Wright of Lathrup Village — were later arrested by police and charged with felonious assault in 48th District Court.
Speculation began early that the two men were part of an entourage connected with Edwards. In the lawsuit, Edwards admits to being at the bar that night for a class reunion. The lawsuit also mentions that the three South Bar employees in question assaulted "certain individuals known to Mr. Edwards, but none of whom are related to or are (or were) employed by Mr. Edwards."
However, Edwards said his complaint is separate from the fight and arrests. That night, Edwards said a group of people was harassing his table despite the fact the he paid a South employee for increased security and privacy.
South employees, including Ellis, then "swarmed the area," the lawsuit claims, and began confronting the men at Edwards' table. Ellis, he said, "became very angry and removed his shirt and became very aggressive."
Edwards then tried to leave South through the front door but employees ushered him to a back door in the kitchen. However Ellis was blocking the back door, Edwards said, and came at him "wielding a broom handle."
The two scuffled briefly but Edwards soon left the bar, his lawsuit reads. However, the next day, Edwards said he received text messages from Ellis, Schmante and Williams, asking for money or else they would go to the press and file complaints with the police.
On Aug. 2, a South Bar employee went to police and claimed he was assaulted the night before. Edwards wasn't named in the police report. The employee told police he was accidentally pushed into a group of people around closing time. One individual pushed back, shouting, "Do you know who I am?" before the employee claimed he tried to punch him. The fight spilled over into the kitchen, where the employee claims he was knocked to the floor and punched.
A day later, South released a statement about the incident, saying, "Braylon Edwards was present and involved" in the Aug. 1 fight.
Birmingham Deputy Chief of Police Mark Clemence said Thursday police are still investigating the employee's claim. However, Clemence confirmed that police did interview Edwards about the incident, as stated in the lawsuit.
A call to South's attorney Kelly Allen was not immediately returned Thursday.