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Deion Sanders Gives Rare Sweet Sendoff To Controversial Colorado Receiver

Head coach Deion Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes watches as his team plays their spring game at Folsom Field on April 27, 2024 in Boulder, Colorado.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Deion Sanders finally found a reason to say nice things about a player who is leaving his team. The Colorado coach, who went 4-8 in his first season in Boulder, has gotten heat lately for feuding with and/or insulting players who’ve entered the transfer portal. But last week, upon the departure of 22-year-old sophomore receiver Deuce Roberson, Sanders offered only kind words.

“Love ya my man and whomever you commit to will be getting a good young man that wants to prove to everybody he's more than deserving!” Sanders wrote on Twitter. The sweet sendoff came just an hour after Roberson used the same app and tone to thank Sanders for bringing him to CU, while also saying that “it is best for us to part ways.” 

“It's just time for a fresh start for me,” Roberson wrote.

The oddest part of Sanders’s babyface turn is that he made it for his most controversial recruit. Roberson leaves the school having never dressed for a regular season or spring game. In the 2023 spring semester, the school's athletic department issued a statement to Defector saying that Roberson was "no longer with the football team." Roberson's separation from the program came after more than a dozen women, most of whom were his former classmates at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colo., accused him of a variety of sexual abuses. Roberson was never charged with any crimes before or after he was dismissed from the team. 

One of Roberson’s accusers, who is also a Palmer Ridge alum, told Defector via email that she and other classmates were shocked to see Sanders’s statement of support.

"I can’t express how disheartening, surreal, and appalling it is to see Deion Sanders publicly praise [Roberson],” said the accuser, who requested anonymity. “At a minimum, it’s a reckless and inconsiderate tweet that will affect the traumatized girls for years to come. It’s shameful and disappointing, and not at all what CU should be endorsing or glorifying."

Roberson had one of the greatest careers in Colorado schoolboy football history while at Palmer Ridge. The 2020 graduate was named first team all-Colorado three times, and was offensive player of the year for the state as a senior. His teams won three state championships. He finished with 4,042 receiving yards, the highest total in state history. 

But lots of women in his hometown allege that Roberson was terrorizing classmates while piling up those stats and accolades. In January 2023, shortly after Roberson announced he would be playing for Sanders and Colorado, a petition titled “Expel and hold Deuce Roberson accountable, Protect CU Boulder” appeared online. The petition included various accusations of sexual abuse, from bullying classmates for nude photographs, to unwanted touching, to rape. 

"CU Boulder has both a legal and moral obligation to protect its students from this man," read the petition, which quickly garnered more than 5,500 signatures. 

The comments section of the petition was filled with additional heinous allegations against Roberson. Several of his former classmates spoke on the record with Defector last year about being abused and assaulted. One told Defector that she'd been raped by Roberson in the backseat of a car in high school. Another classmate alleged she was raped by Roberson at a Palmer Ridge party when she was a 15-year-old freshman and Roberson was a junior. Like most of the accusers, she said she told only classmates what she’d suffered. She said that somebody at the school reported the allegations to the police, but she didn’t cooperate with officers who showed up at her house to investigate. She told Defector, "Deuce bullied me into thinking that I was a liar."

Amber Newberry, a therapist in Monument, told Defector last year that three of her clients, all Palmer Ridge students, spoke to her in 2019 about being sexually assaulted by Roberson. Other Palmer Ridge students told Defector that school administrators who knew about the accusations against Roberson discouraged kids from pursuing legal action. 

Roberson, despite the unprecedented gridiron glories and incredible athletic ability, ended up playing for Snow College, a community college in Ephraim, Utah. He was named to the 2022 JuCo All-American team as a kick returner while at Snow. But Roberson had off-field issues at that school during the football season, too. According to a report last year in the CU Independent, Snow College administrators had issued a “no-contact” order to Roberson in the fall semester of 2022, compelling him to stay away from a female classmate who’d alleged that he’d sexually harassed her on campus. 

Yet Roberson’s football skills were such that when Sanders took over the CU program last year and gutted the roster he’d inherited, Roberson got an offer to return to his home state and play ball, and he accepted it. But he never got on the field. 

Roberson was permitted to stay enrolled at CU following his removal from the football program, and a source with ties to the school’s athletics department told Defector that Roberson also continued to meet with Sanders despite the dismissal. Two sources said Roberson had retained a lawyer to pursue a reinstatement, but CU spokesman Steve Hurlbert told Defector that Roberson was not permitted to rejoin the team at any point. Hurlbert also said the mutually positive tweets from Roberson and Sanders were not part of any pre-arranged deal to say nice things about each other as Roberson exited the program.

"The social media exchange was definitely not part of any agreement between the school and Roberson," said Hurlbert. "We had no idea he was going to post anything." 

Roberson has not announced what school he will play for next, if any. He has never spoken publicly about the assault allegations. On April 23, he went on Twitter, where his bio still identifies him as a CU receiver, and indicated that he wanted to talk. 

"Can’t wait to tell the TRUTH about my situation," read his post. "I’ll break that silence soon and let the world know the TRUTH. Straight like that. No ill-wishes towards anyone, just think it’s time people know the TRUTH. Not gonna be quiet about something I DIDN’T do. Stay tuned."

Reached by phone last night, Roberson told Defector that every allegation of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault made against him in the petition or elsewhere is false. 

"I was never charged with anything, never arrested for anything, never brought in for questioning about anything," Roberson said.

He then declined to answer any more questions.  

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