Former NFL Star Clinton Portis Reflects On Prison Time, Says He Was Railroaded | Is He A Hall Of Famer?

Clinton Portis Pivot Podcast
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Former star running back Clinton Portis, known as much for his outspoken demeanor as his significant football prowess, joined the latest episode of “The Pivot Podcast” to open up about his time in prison and to proclaim his innocence after serving six months for his involvement in a health care fraud case related to the NFL Players Association.

Alongside the show’s co-hosts and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, Portis plainly claimed his innocence before sharing more details about how he personally felt that he got railroaded by the case and trial.

“Make it make sense to me,” said Portis. “I did the time for a crime I didn’t commit. … I became the John Gotti of a situation I knew nothing about.

“I think it was a situation that was way bigger than me. I had a hung jury in Lexington, Kentucky. An all-white jury … Not only did I work out a plea, but I paid the money back prior to any of this. Then I still ended up with jail time. It’s gotta be something bigger. … I do think in some ways it was like a blessing in disguise for me.”

Why Was NFL Star Clinton Portis Sent To Jail?

Portis was sentenced to six months in federal prison and an additional six months under house arrest for his role in a scheme to defraud a benefits fund for retired NFL veterans.

Portis pleaded guilty back in September of 2021 after he was charged for filing false claims for medical equipment that was not provided. He obtained nearly $100,000 with the false claims. Kind of crazy for a player who reportedly made $41M in his career, but Portis is a cautionary tale for athletes, as he filed bankruptcy in 2015 and squandered much of that fortune on bad investments and poor money management.

Portis was the biggest name involved in the 15-player ring. Other former players that were also charged and sentenced, include: Joe Horn, Tamarick Vanover, Robert McCune, Carlos Rogers, Correll Buckhalter, James Butler, Ceandris Brown, John Eubanks, Antwan Odom, Etric Pruitt, Darrell Reid, Anthony Montgomery, Frederick Bennett, and the late Reche Caldwell.

The former players filed false reimbursement claims totaling about $2.9 million from the plan. The NFL established the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan to help retired players pay for medical expenses. The account provides up to $350,000 in benefits per player.

“There’s A Lot Of Good People Behind Bars”

After going into detail on the factors that led to Portis’ situation, he takes the high road about the results of the situation and shares with the co-hosts how he hopes to be able to become a voice for others who end up in prison under similar circumstances.

“It’s about being an advocate and being a spokesman for the voices that don’t get a chance to speak,” said Portis. “Because there’s a lot of good people behind bars. Whether they made a mistake and have done their time and need to be re-released or they’ve been forgiven, there’s a lot of good people there.”

Portis, who spent a majority of his career playing for the Washington Commanders, also chimed in on one of the big controversies currently in the NFL and offered a rare support of embattled Commanders Owner Daniel Snyder.

Clinton Portis Loves Washington Commanders Owner Dan Snyder 

“I would tell people that I love Dan Snyder,” said Portis. “Us as men, we don’t tell other men that we love them. That’s one person I’d tell that. He gave me an opportunity that I never would have had. Because of him, I’ll always be up here in life. No matter the negativity, I’ll outlast that.”

Finally, Portis declares his hopes that one day he’ll be able to earn a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, explaining that the way teams had to prepare to stop him makes him deserving of the on-field honor. Portis was a beast, scoring 75 touchdowns and rushing for nearly 10,000 yards in his nine-year career. 

“I would love that gold jacket,” said Portis. “I think the work and the impact I’ve had shows I’m deserving of that. Throughout my whole career, the defensive coordinator on the other team has never said, don’t worry about ‘26.’ The goal has always been to stop me, but you didn’t. Every game I’ve played in, they’ve said they have to stop me. With all those opportunities where I succeeded, where are the people at to tell the truth about me?”

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.