Updated: Sep 9, 2022
On April 18th 2022, Coach Kirby Wilson of the Pittsburgh Maulers dismissed De'Veon Smith. The release of Smith has caused the largest controversy in the USFL to date. Everyone wants to know, why did Wilson dismiss Smith?
Prior to the USFL controversy De'Veon Smith was known for his athleticism; former Michigan State Phenom led the team in 2014 with over 500 yards rushing. His success continued through 2016 leading Michigan with 750 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Smith continued to amaze fans leading the XFL in rushing yards in 2020 with 365 before the XFL's untimely shut down due to the global pandemic. Both collegiate and professional Smith rushed over 2,000 yards. Smith's talent and hunger to win is undeniable. Fans and players alike are bewildered by the surprising release of Smith in the highly publicized first episode of United by Football, a docu-series showing players and coaches alike preparing for their first USFL season.
Kirby Wilson, 23 year veteran running back coach of the NFL is facing harsh criticism from social media after releasing Smith. Wilson claims within twenty-four hours Smith broke three team rules, including disrespecting cafeteria staff. An allegation Smith fiercely denies. Fans are referring to the debacle as "Pizzagate". United by Football aired the meeting with Wilson and Smith along with other coaching staff where Wilson cut Smith from the team. Wilson explained, this is a very difficult decision as a first time Head Coach. Telling Smith the decision to release him was based on the rules in the handbook that was handed out March 22nd. Per line 46 of the handbook, any disrespect of football members, team staff, hotel personnel etc. would not be tolerated. He further explains, incidences were brought to his attention and the cost of doing business is letting him go. Wilson stands by his decision while Smith fights to have his side heard.
The Pittsburgh Maulers later released this Statement.
De'Veon Smith (@i_BSmith4) would then reply directly to the Pittsburgh Maulers Statement via Twitter:
"What rules did I break? Now your lying on my name????? Say less"
"I even got teammates that was right there"
"They really just put out a lie! Y'all really should be ashamed of y'all selves!"
In a Series of tweets, the most direct towards the Statement released by the Pittsburgh Maulers, Smith would follow up with: "I was never made aware that I violated any team rules, let alone 3 in a 24 hor span. I never disrespected anyone. Coach Kirby and I spoke after being released. In that talk, he said he'd certainly vouch for my character."
Later in an interview hosted by OutKick 360 on Tuesday, April 27th Wilson defended his decision. The host asked what lead to the chicken salad (and pizza) incident that caused Smith to be released. Wilson, not mentioning Smith by name, stated it was a shame he was discussing someone who was no longer on the team. He continues to defend his decision, alleging he and Smith have talked and he can vouch for Smith's character. The Coach was surprised by the publicity of the situation and how it was presented on the show or as he describes, "the moment." Wilson did not go into much detail about the "moments" leading to the release. He reiterated the handbook and explained to the hosts, the players made a prior agreement to the terms of the handbook. He also stated, he verbally told the team disrespect would not be tolerated along with other nonnegotiable terms. The breaking of any of these rules for any player will not be tolerated. Wilson stands by his decision, saying he hopes the record is set straight and we can move on to focusing on the current players on the team. After the interview Smith tweeted, "This man just said, "I (he) was being disrespectful towards more then 3 people the day before he got released". This is a bold face lie. He is again lying on who I am as a person, a father. This makes me sick honestly! Kirby you will eventually have to tell the truth!!!!".
The second installment of United by Football shows a team meeting Wilson held, addressing making cuts to the team and players holding themselves accountable. He uses Ajene Harris as an example of accountability. He later states having an opinion on chicken or pizza is "straight up bulls***t". It's unlikely we'll see what led to the release of De'Veon Smith. The events continue to unfold on social media and with the latest installment of United By Football airing Saturday, April 30th.
Photo Courtesy: United By Football (FOX)