'Bachelor in Paradise' contestant Jade Roper Tolbert's $1 million football contest win now in dispute

Husband and "Bachelorette" cast member Tanner Tolbert is also a major player, giving rise to collusion allegations.
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Jade Roper Tolbert and Tanner Tolbert at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California, on Nov.9, 2019.Rich Fury / Getty Images for New York Magazine file

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By David K. Li

A reality TV star won $1 million in a fantasy football contest that's now being reviewed over allegations that she and her husband might have unfairly teamed up in their picks.

Jade Roper Tolbert, who appeared on ABC's "Bachelor in Paradise" in 2015, won the top prize in last weekend's DraftKings Millionaire Maker daily fantasy contest by picking the best statistical lineup of players from opening-round NFL playoff games.

She spiked the football on her husband, Tanner Tolbert, who was a contestant on "The Bachelorette" in 2015. She claimed that her big win was due in part to her selection of Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who had a huge game in his team's victory at the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

"Hahaha that's me! And Tanner told me I shouldn't play DK Metcalf!" Jade Tolbert tweeted with laughing emojis.

But by Monday morning, fantasy players were crying foul because Tanner Tolbert is known for being a high-value player, regularly entering the maximum number of lineups in any fantasy contest.

DraftKings operates daily fantasy games in which contestants put up money and select football players of different positions in hope of fielding lineups with the best statistical performances.

Daily fantasy games have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with players gaming the system by entering numerous lineups and sometimes colluding with other contestants.

By entering additional lineups, a contestant can cover more combinations of possible outcomes. Gaming companies like DraftKings have instituted limits on how many lineups a contestant can enter and established rules against colluding with other gamblers.

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DraftKings put a hold on Jade Tolbert's payout on Monday — although a spokesman told NBC News on Tuesday that such delays and reviews are common in major prize contests.

"The DraftKings compliance team reviews the results of all major contests to ensure they comply with our Terms of Use and applicable state regulations," according to statement from the company. "We take the integrity and fairness of our DFS contests seriously, and prizes are not paid out until our reviews are complete."

In a radio interview Monday with ESPN, Tanner Tolbert defended his wife but acknowledged that she regularly picks quarterbacks not in his lineup.

"I thought Drew Brees and Carson Wentz would have big days," he said. "Obviously, I was wrong. But Jade definitely wanted to go with the other quarterbacks. I think partly she likes rooting against me."

The couple said in a statement that the allegations were sexist.

"We respect that Draft Kings feels they must do their due diligence in regard to Jade winning their $1 million dollar prize for the fantasy contest for the NFL's wild-card round this weekend," according to a statement from their agent, Paul Desisto.

"Though we must ponder, would the questions, accusations and curiosity about this win be the same if the winner had been male and someone who wasn't already in the public eye? It is incredibly important for us to establish that Jade's win is nothing more than pure luck and we are confident that Draft Kings will determine the same," Desisto said.

The couple met during "Bachelor in Paradise," which aired in 2015, before they wed in 2016. They welcomed their second child last year.