Evan Mathis’ $64,055.76 dinner he described as “teaching rookies a lesson” never happened. The Philadelphia Eagles’ All-Pro guard, who played at Homewood High and Alabama, tweeted a photo of a receipt purported to be from a dinner, paid for by Eagles rookies, held at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Philadelphia on Thursday night. It was retweeted more than 5,400 times and widely chronicled in the national media, including at AL.com.
The bill, however, was a “complete hoax,” according to a teammate.
Mathis perpetrated the ruse a week after Eagles’ offensive lineman, Lane Johnson, tweeted a photo of a $17,747 receipt from the same restaurant with the caption “rookie dinner.”
Johnson’s dinner happened; Mathis’ didn’t.
On Friday morning, Eagles center Jason Kelce told a Philadelphia radio station that Mathis went to lengths to make his tweet look authentic after Johnson’s real dinner bill stirred controversy. “This was a complete hoax that was designed by Evan Mathis to mislead the media across the nation,” Kelce said. “Apparently, it did its job. He spent all day making sure the prices were right, making sure everything looked good.”
Indeed Mathis went to great lengths ensure the receipt was an acrostic, with the first letter of each item spelling, “ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS-ROSHAMBO.”
In the wake of the NFL’s effort to address rookie hazing rituals throughout the league, Johnson’s “rookie dinner” receipt from June 6 quickly came under criticism. Pro Football Talk opined: “This longstanding tradition should come to an end. Just because NFL players make a lot of money, that doesn’t mean they should be pressured to spend that money on frivolous things like bottles of wine that cost as much as the average American takes home in a month. A good veteran mentor would take a rookie aside and talk to him about investing his money wisely and saving for retirement. A veteran who pressures a rookie to spend thousands of dollars on a meal is being a jerk.”
On Friday morning, Mathis directed a tweet at Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that said: “Hey Florio, the lesson was to not jump to conclusions with little or no info like your site did with Lane’s tweet.”
After the Eagles’ practice on Monday, Johnson was asked by reporters if his dinner was an incidence of hazing. “It was kind of my idea — keep the tradition going,” Johnson said. “I didn’t pay the whole bill. I got help from Todd (Herremans) and Evan. So just something I did for them. Ain’t no big deal to me.
“I probably should have gave it some clarity. When I tweeted it out, all I said was ‘rookie dinner.’ And they think I got pressured into doing it — this, that and the other. But that’s all right.”
Earlier this week, Kelce said, “Everybody who has been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles has taken the veterans out on a rookie dinner.” On Friday, he said veteran players had talked to Johnson, who is in his second season, about his choice to tweet the dinner tab.
“Twitter is going to be something that people are going to interpret however they want,” Kelce said. “You tweet out a bill of $17,000, people don’t know whether you’re bragging. What are you trying to accomplish by posting that on the internet? 17 thousand dollars is half of somebody’s yearly salary, maybe some people’s full. It’s never a good thing to put out on the Internet.”