Why Deion Sanders’ son Shilo filed for bankruptcy, what’s next in Colorado safety’s legal saga

Why Deion Sanders’ son Shilo filed for bankruptcy, what’s next in Colorado safety’s legal saga

Colorado starting safety Shilo Sanders’ legal woes are under scrutiny as a near decade-long saga continues to unfurl. Sanders, the 24-year-old son of Buffaloes head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last October on the heels of a Texas court judgment against him for nearly $12 million in damages owed to a former security guard at his Dallas high school following an alleged assault.

According to court records in Texas and Colorado obtained and reviewed this week by The Athletic, John Darjean alleged that Sanders, then 15, assaulted Darjean during an altercation at Triple A Academy in 2015, leaving Darjean with damage to his cervical spine and permanent neurological issues. Sanders has claimed in court records that it was Darjean who was the aggressor.

Sanders’ declaration of bankruptcy has brought into question his personal net worth in an era in college sports when athletes can cash in on name, image and likeness rights.

Darjean and his lawyers claim in court documents that Sanders didn’t properly disclose his assets when he filed for bankruptcy. They are still seeking to collect on the $11.89 million judgment he was ordered to pay after a March 2022 civil trial in a Texas district court ruled in favor of Darjean. Sanders failed to appear at the trial and claims in court documents that he could not afford legal representation at the time, notice of new trial dates never reached him and he did not learn of the default judgment until 2023.

According to April 2020 court documents, his previous lawyers collectively withdrew from the case due to being informed by Sanders “that he is unwilling or unable to continue funding the defense of this case.” Sanders’ bankruptcy filings in Colorado note that he is a graduate student looking for a “fresh start in life.”


Shilo Sanders appeared in the Louis Vuitton Menswear Ready-to-wear Fall-Winter 2024/2025 collection as part of Paris Fashion Week on Jan. 16, 2024. (Alain Jocard / AFP via Getty Images)

This week, Sanders and his lawyers filed a motion in a Dallas area court to seal 21 court records dating to August 2017 they state feature “sensitive and confidential information” relating to Sanders. The motion stated that Darjean has been violating the initial protective order set in 2018 on various social media platforms in recent years, part of an ongoing dispute over what information should be kept under wraps as Sanders was a minor at the time of the incident.

This April, Darjean appeared on “Fearless with Jason Whitlock” for a 90-minute sit-down interview in which he details his side of the story and includes video testimony from Deion Sanders. Darjean alleged that a former administrator at the school “stole” surveillance footage of the altercation and gave it to Deion Sanders. The former Cowboys star cornerback told TMZ in 2016 that Darjean was “a real-life grifter.”

A University of Colorado spokesperson said Wednesday that the university, as well as Deion and Shilo Sanders, “are going to reserve comment as the litigation is ongoing.” Lawyers for Sanders and Darjean did not respond to requests for comment.

The alleged assault

Video obtained by TMZ in 2016 shows the early stages of the altercation and alleged assault on Sept. 17, 2015. Darjean approaches Sanders on the school’s basketball court and grabs Sanders’ right arm. Sanders shakes off the attempt before the video cuts to a scuffle taking place in the distance as it spills into the school’s foyer.

Both parties claim the dispute had to do with Sanders talking on his phone, which was against school policy, to his mother, Pilar. Darjean’s lawsuit stated Sanders attacked him by elbowing him in the neck and chest before striking Darjean several times more in the same area and called the attack “sudden, unexpected, unprovoked.”

According to documents filed with the bankruptcy court in February, Sanders’ version of the story is markedly different. It states that Darjean became overly physical with the teenager. Sanders said he was pressed up against a wall for over a minute by Darjean and couldn’t move. The school’s principal, Ruda Nash, witnessed the ordeal and was one of several staff members who attempted to remove Darjean from Sanders, according to Sanders. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services received a written statement from Nash, who said Darjean held Sanders by the neck before throwing him to the ground. After they were eventually separated, Sanders dialed 911, according to Nash.

Beyond the dissenting claims of what transpired, Deion Sanders and Darjean knew each other before the incident. Darjean, a former pitcher in the New York Yankees organization, coached youth baseball in the community. Deion Sanders also served as the head football coach at Triple A Academy for two seasons in 2015 and 2016. In his interview on Whitlock’s show in April, Darjean claims that Deion Sanders called him personally to take the phone away from Shilo because of his disdain for Pilar, his ex-wife. They were divorced in 2013.

In June 2016, Darjean first filed the lawsuit against Deion, Pilar and Shilo in Dallas District Court alleging his “severe and permanent injuries.” Deion Sanders was eventually removed from the suit in January 2019.

“I tried to reach out to him, he didn’t come visit me in the hospital, he didn’t say, ‘Hey man, I know my son did you wrong,’” Darjean said on Whitlock’s show. “He flipped the script and sent a piece of video to TMZ and said I was the aggressor and said I attacked his son.”

A year later, in June 2017, Darjean filed a defamation suit against Deion Sanders for Sanders’ comments to TMZ. The case would eventually be dismissed for want of prosecution in February 2019.

A YouTube channel titled “Prime Time for The Truth” was created in November 2021. It previously had deposition video of Deion Sanders, but has since been removed. A separate YouTube video was made a month ago asking for donations to a GoFundMe account that states that Darjean’s medical bills have exceeded $900,000 and that Sanders has yet to complete his payments. It has received $150 of the $800,000 goal.

Collecting on the judgment and NIL

Darjean and his lawyers allege in bankruptcy court that Sanders hasn’t been transparent about the entirety of his assets that came from being in demand in the NIL landscape.

Sanders, who began his collegiate career at South Carolina before transferring to play for his father at Jackson State and ultimately Colorado, has been part of high-profile NIL deals as the Buffs under Deion Sanders became one of the biggest stories in sports.

Shilo was recently featured in a cameo on Starz’s hit show “BMF” — in which he played his father. In January, Shilo and his brother Shedeur, Colorado’s starting quarterback, walked the runway in Paris for the fall-winter show for Louis Vuitton. He’s been in commercials for Google alongside Shedeur and has starred in marketing campaigns alongside his dad and siblings for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Oikos yogurt.

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In his bankruptcy filing in Colorado court last year, Sanders revealed he had a gross income of $193,713 in 2023, while netting $216,950 the year before in his last season at Jackson State. It also showed his liabilities — mainly the court judgment from 2022 — an estimated $11.3 million. Among his claimed assets is a 2023 Mercedes GLE valued at $75,900. Necklaces valued at $75,000 were later removed as assets.

Court filings say Darjean has alleged that Sanders is worth more than the reported $320,000 on his bankruptcy filing — he believes Sanders transferred money into one of his two LLCs, Big 21 and SS21.

“It is Shilo’s very NIL value and/or public value that are the source of the non-stop paid engagements and social media appearances,” Darjean’s complaint reads, according to Westword, an independent publication based in Denver that first reported on Sanders’ bankruptcy case May 24 and downloaded the filing before it was sealed this month. “The entire underpinning of the NIL concept is the value of the individual athlete, but Shilo chose not only to hide the value of the entire NIL endeavor with the ‘unknown’ listings for the two of the entities that were disclosed (Big 21 LLC and/or SS21 LLC), but also Shilo intentionally failed to identify and disclose his individual NIL property interest anywhere in the schedules.”

Sanders’ lawyers disputed the claim by noting that the transcript of Sanders’ meeting with creditors makes it clear that his NIL agreements were always done with Big 21, LLC, and therefore were part of the assets of Sanders’ claimed estate estimate.

“This allegation is based on pure conjecture and media ‘hype,’ without hav(ing) any basis in fact and reality,” Sanders’ lawyers wrote.

Sanders has filed a motion for summary judgment, which has also been sealed by the judge. If it is granted, Darjean would not be able to collect on the judgment in Texas. Darjean’s lawyer filed a request last week to extend the deadline for a response to June 24.

(Top photo: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

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