The week leading up to the Super Bowl tends to create a pretty festive atmosphere in the city that’s hosting The Big Game. While fans who make the trek tend to use the trip as an excuse to party, the players vying for a Lombardi Trophy are expected to take it easy and focus on the contest, but that can be easier said than done—as evidenced by the tale of Falcons safety Eugene Robinson.
Robinson was no stranger to the Super Bowl prior to Atlanta’s showdown with the Broncos on January 31, 1999, as he’d won a ring as a member of the Packers squad that had topped the Patriots to bring a championship back to Green Bay for the first time in close to three decades a couple of years earlier.
The Packers secured that victory in New Orleans, a city known for offering visitors plenty of vice and temptation to indulge in.
You could say the same for Miami (which is where Atlanta and Denver headed for Super Bowl XXXIII), but when you consider Robinson stayed on his best behavior during his visit to The Big Easy, there wasn’t really any reason to believe his trip to Florida would pan out any differently.
That’s especially true for a vocal Christian who’d been presented with the Bart Starr Award the day before the Super Bowl, an annual honor reserved for the player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”
Unfortunately, things quickly took a turn for the worse.
Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was arrested less than 24 hours before he played in Super Bowl XXXIII
Many NFL players have a specific routine they turn to the night before a game to ensure they’re ready for what awaits them when they take to the gridiron the next day.
Robinson, however, apparently decided there was no better time than the night before the Super Bowl to hop into his car and drive over to Edgewater, a neighborhood in Miami that (at the time) was known for being a hot spot for prostitution and other seedy activities.
Unfortunately for Robinson, law enforcement officials were also aware that the area was a hot spot for people looking to spend some time with a lady of the night. While he offered a woman $40 for a certain oral engagement, he found himself placed in handcuffs after discovering the subject of his advances was actually an undercover cop.
That incident unfolded at approximately 9 P.M., and Robinson was whisked off to jail before being released after Falcons GM Harold Richardson posted his bail a couple of hours later. While Atlanta obviously would’ve preferred to keep things under wraps, it was unable to prevent the story from coming out on Sunday morning, and it was a hot topic of conversation ahead of the Super Bowl.
Robinson said he was unable to sleep the night before the contest, and the distraction became even harder to ignore after he got burned by Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith on an 80-yard touchdown pass from John Elway that gave Denver a 17-3 lead toward the end of the first half (the Broncos ultimately won by a score of 34-19).
After the game, multiple Falcons players anonymously admitted Robinson wasn’t the only person who’d solicited similar services in Miami, and while they seemingly didn’t take issue with that questionable decision, the fact that he was caught seemed to be a major point of contention.
Robinson—who was married and had multiple children—initially tried to plead his innocence before admitting he was at fault. A week after the loss, he agreed to forfeit the Bart Starr Award and spent one more year with the Falcons before playing his final season with the Panthers in 2000.
He’d eventually pivot to broadcasting en route to spending more than 15 years with the Carolina Panthers Radio Network, and he went out of his way to warn players on the team to not to follow in his footsteps before they faced off against the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.