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A ‘Bachelor’ contestant won big at fantasy football. Now there’s a cheating probe

Tanner Tolbert and Jade Roper Tolbert
Tanner Tolbert, left, and Jade Roper Tolbert are defending her recent $1-million win in fantasy football.
(Paul Archuleta / Getty Images)

Jade Roper Tolbert and Tanner Tolbert, the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” alumni who got engaged on Season 2 of “Bachelor in Paradise” and married a year later, are alleging sexism in a fantasy football league’s investigation of her recent $1-million NFL Wild Card Weekend win.

Roper Tolbert won the seven-figure prize in DraftKings’ “Millionaire Maker” contest Sunday after she and her husband entered the maximum 150 lineups each from players in the NFL’s four weekend playoff games — something he said the two social-media influencers had been doing unsuccessfully for 17 weeks prior.

This time, the couple said, she got lucky.

DraftKings initially congratulated her in the style of “The Bachelor,” publicly offering her a tweeted rose. But it eventually deleted that post.

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Then other fantasy football players called foul, and things got complicated.

After her win, players and fantasy league insiders analyzed the couple’s many rosters and found no duplication, which they took as a clear sign that the spouses had colluded in their picks. That would be a violation of rules against coordinated play.

DraftKings “reviews the results of all major contests to ensure they comply with our Terms of Use and applicable state regulations,” a spokesman said. It doesn’t pay out prizes until its reviews are complete.

It’s true Roper Tolbert had never been a sports fan before, and never played fantasy football before this season, her husband told ESPN on Monday. It’s his obsession, so she decided to get into it.

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The Tolberts say there’s no way she cheated. And they think she’s being singled out because she’s female and a public figure, even though Tanner Tolbert admitted that they would occasionally discuss picks during the week.

“We respect that Draft Kings feels they must do their due diligence in regard to Jade winning their $1million dollar prize for the fantasy contest for the NFL’s wild-card round this weekend,” they said in a joint statement.

“Bachelor in Paradise” contestants Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty — the franchise’s first same-sex couple — proposed to each other during Tuesday’s finale.

“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,” the statement added.

A fantasy-industry executive told ESPN that groups of people coordinating in major contests is “endemic” and “nothing new,” despite DraftKings and other sites deeming that sort of play unacceptable.

“No one has ever said a peep about us when we lost for 17 straight weeks. Then, of course, somehow Jade picked the right lineup, got the million and the spotlight got shone on it. And people, especially since she’s a woman, assume that I do it all for her. If I had won, I bet no one would’ve raised a flag,” Tanner Tolbert told ESPN in a phone interview Monday.


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