SALT LAKE CITY -- The cashier at the South Jordan Pie Pizzeria had just punched a medium pepperoni and sausage order into the register when the customer across the counter asked her name.
"Sarah," she answered.
"Hi Sarah, my name's Teddy, and you won't believe what I do," the man said with a smile, handing the young woman a business card. "I'm trying to make marijuana legal."
Awkward pause. Curious glance. Teddy had seen both. A bunch.
"You're not just going to toss my card, right?" he asked. "You're gonna check it out, right?"
Sarah nodded politely. Whether the guy was a reformist or just had a case of the munchies, it didn't seem to faze her one way or another. This is, after all, 2010, and the movement to decriminalize cannabis isn't exactly cutting-edge stuff; even for folks in a state as conservative as Utah.
Now had Sarah been a hard-core college basketball fan of the last decade or so -- and lived in the Sunshine State rather than the Beehive State -- she might have been taken aback by the outgoing, engaging and boyish-looking man with the slicked-back hair. It's not often that former basketball stars hand out cards emblazoned with pot plants.
Yeah, under different circumstances, that might have thrown her a bit.
Then again, given Teddy Dupay's well-chronicled odyssey the last decade, maybe not.
From high school All-America point guard, to University of Florida star, to disgraced and banished college athlete, to basketball nomad, to single father, to accused rapist, to convicted felon, to inmate, to free man, and now, to optimistic crusader and energized entrepreneur. Next up: Legalizing pot.
Is the dude high or what?
"You know me," Dupay said. "Controversy is my middle name."
"Adversity" could be, too. They say it makes you stronger. And Teddy should know.
A scrappy 5-foot-10 point guard who averaged a nation-best 41.5 points a game in high school, Dupay was coach Billy Donovan's first big-time commitment for the Gators. As a sophomore, he started for Donovan's loaded 1999-2000 squad that 10 years ago was prepping to embark on a run to the NCAA title game (eventually losing to Michigan State). Along the way, Dupay became as beloved by the home crowd in Gainesville for his gritty and brash play as he was despised on the road for the same traits (check out the "I still hate Teddy Dupay" fan page, 52 members strong, on Facebook).
Those were the good days.
"Ninety-eight percent of Teddy was absolutely unbelievable. He had that charisma and the swagger and flair and personal qualities that rubbed off on everybody," Donovan told FanHouse recently. "But I also thought there was a side to Teddy that sometimes allowed himself to be put in harm's way."
In the fall heading into his senior season, Dupay was kicked off the UF team for associating with students known to have placed bets on college basketball games involving the Gators. The punishment ended his collegiate career and left Dupay to fend for whatever hoops future he had left via various stops and stints at second-tier (or worse) versions of pro ball. Eventually, his body broke down and sent him into the real professional world and a budding career in educational sales.
"I was making $250-300K," he said, "without even breaking a sweat."
In June 2008, Dupay was living in Utah and took his live-in girlfriend on a trip to see family at a mountain resort in Park City. There, police were called when the two got into a fight that led to Dupay being charged with felony rape, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. More than a year later, he pled to reduced charges, went to jail for 30 days and was placed on a lengthy probation.
Since walking out of Summit County Jail four months ago, Dupay, now 30, has spent little time worrying about repairing his reputation. He has another cause; a far more ambitious one he believes can solve much of America's biggest problems.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to S'Boalnation, the latest in a long line of advocacy groups promoting the legalization of marijuana, only this time through a marketing network strategy. In December, Dupay the CEO launched his business via its Web site and YouTube, and Friday pitched the new endeavor to syndicated radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge and his three million listeners.
"This is going to be big, I'm telling you. I feel like I'm on the ground floor of the Internet," Dupay said. "We're not the first advocacy group to realize pot is the answer to our country's economic problems or environmental problems or dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil and medical ailments. But we are the first advocacy group that will pay you to stand up for what's right."
Reactions will vary. Some will empathize, many will dismiss. Some will laugh, even mock. The ones who have known him a long time and still care about Dupay probably will ask a question.
Teddy, what the hell are you doing?
"Very few people would dare try anything like this. It takes balls," Dupay said. "Yeah, some will look at it like that. ... You mean like, 'Teddy, what are you doing? You're short and white. You can't play basketball.' ... 'Teddy, what are you doing? No one's going to give you a Division-I scholarship.'... 'Teddy, what are you doing? Don't go to Florida. They stink and Billy Donovan is unproven.' You mean, like that?"
Yeah, just like that.
At Cape Coral (Fla.) Mariner High School, Dupay was a deadly shooter who set the Florida prep record for career points while competing in Class 6A, the highest level of competition, and was named a McDonald's All-American. Five times he eclipsed 50 points and set scoring marks in four national tournaments. As a senior playing in the prestigious City of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., Dupay scored 29 in the fourth quarter against nationally ranked Shaker Heights (Ohio) and later that season went for a career-high 70 in a regional playoff game at Cooper City, Fla.
When done, his state mark stood at 3,744 points. It still stands.
"It'll never be broken ... unless they add a 5-point line," Dupay said.
At Florida, where minutes were spread thin among a wealth of former prep stars, he averaged 10.7 points over his three seasons. What turned out to be Dupay's final home game was a career-high 28 points in a win over rival Kentucky that clinched a share of just the second SEC title in school history.
He was 21 years old and a superstar on campus. Dupay had it all.
Then he had nothing.
In the fall of what would have started his senior year, a tearful Dupay read a statement apologizing to UF, his teammates and Gator fans at a news conference announcing the end of his career. The state attorney's office later named Dupay as an uncharged co-defendant in a case against a friend and roommate who had placed bets on UF games allegedly based on inside information provided by Dupay.
"I put myself in a bad situation and I paid the price," recalled Dupay, who remained in Gainesville long enough to graduate with a degree in sociology. "I maintain the punishment did not fit the crime, but I brought it on myself."
Over the course of the next four years, Dupay bounced from the CBA , ABA, USBL, and had cracks with teams in Europe and South America, including a swing through Venezuela where he met a woman with whom he would have a daughter, Hanna, now 7. He signed on to barnstorm with various club teams for preseason exhibition games against colleges, too. Take the fall night in 2002 at Louisville. That night, Dupay played shooting guard for the One World All-Stars. His team lost 132-83, but Dupay scored 45 points behind a blistering 11-of-14 performance from beyond the arc.
"I'm shocked Teddy Dupay isn't in the NBA," Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said afterward, adding that he benched one of his best players, Taquan Dean, because he got tired of watching Dean try to guard the former Gator. "We didn't want Taquan to go home after giving up 90 points. That would have been bad for his self-esteem."
Dupay's self-esteem -- and confidence -- stayed high. He was in the best shape of his life (a tireless 195 pounds) when he blew out a knee playing for the CBA's Rockford Lightning in '03 and never quite regained his quickness and explosiveness. Dupay walked away from basketball for good two years later to start a career in sales.
Before long, he relocated to Utah.
The June 19, 2008, police report filed by Dupay's 28-year-old girlfriend of two years claimed he raped her after hitting and kicking her about 150 times. It also said Dupay forced her under a desk and threatened to kill her and her family if she tried to leave. A medical exam reported the woman suffered bruises on her outer thigh, upper arm and shoulder, scratches on her back and a swollen left eye.
"We got in an argument and there was definitely a physical altercation," said Dupay, who initially was charged with three first-degree felonies. "It was a huge mistake that I'm very sorry for. I'm not sure there's any better way to explain it than that."
"Look those were serious, serious charges," he said. "But as wrong as I was, I never committed a crime like that."
When the allegations finally became public, Dupay was fired from his lucrative managerial post.
Back in Gainesville, Donovan saw the report and called his former player immediately.
"Teddy was always a kid who had that ability to move past stuff, but this, to me, was something different," Donovan said. "I was like, 'Teddy, are you OK?' He told me a lot of things that were being written weren't true; that everything was going to be fine. Again, I was like, 'Teddy, this doesn't sound like it's just going to be fine.' I wanted him to know we'd be there for him, but I didn't push it."
Ultimately, Dupay's girlfriend didn't push, either. Inconsistencies and recanting of details of what happened that night made it hard on the state's case. Last summer, Dupay pleaded guilty to a lesser-degree felony count of aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of threat against life or property and intoxication. A judge sentenced Dupay to to 30 days in jail, three years' probation, $800 in fines, 100 hours of community service and ordered him to complete domestic violence and anger-management counseling.
Edward Brass, Dupay's attorney in Salt Lake City, declined to comment on both his client and the case.
Dupay reported Sept. 1 to Summit County Jail, a minimum-security facility, on a work-release schedule. He slept in the top bunk of a dormitory cell at night, drove to work in the morning and was required to be back by 9 p.m. For the first few days, police tailed him from jail to make sure he was adhering to the sentencing guidelines. "I wasn't there a lot, and when I was it was usually to sleep," Dupay said. "I pretty much kept to myself. You see the [reality] shows. You don't know what you're supposed to say. Nobody knew me, so I just hung out, played cards, read and minded my own business. That's it."
He just did his time.
Though court orders prohibit Dupay from seeing the woman, he says the two are still in love. Her phone calls and texts go unreturned, though, as Dupay spends whatever spare time he has alone at his home in Herriman, Utah, and looks forward to visits from his young daughter when she comes from Idaho.
"I don't have a lot friends, really, or a social life," he said. "And don't have time for them, either."
Tackling the Pot Issue
Trying to save the world -- and get marijuana declassified from the same Schedule 1 Narcotic status reserved for heroin, crystal meth and crack -- is time-consuming.
[Disclosure: Dupay admits to smoking marijuana in the past, but says he hasn't done so in a "couple years," and adds he won't any time soon. As for his knowledge of weed before taking on this project, "All I knew about pot was that Jason Williams [the former Florida point guard now playing for the Orlando Magic] smoked a lot of it."]
In his suburban office about 10 miles out of Salt Lake City, Dupay stood at a large grease board and for an audience of one made a detailed and diagrammed case -- rather convincingly, in fact -- that legalizing pot and hemp could solve much of America's health, industrial, environmental and hunger problems.
Then came the spin that is his and his alone.
"The problem is not the laws. The problem isn't the prohibition of cannabis or the hypocrisy of it all," he explained. "The problem is that over 75 to 80 percent of our country, when polled, thinks marijuana should be legal, yet nobody stands up to do anything 'cause there's nothing in it for them. But people now can be part of the solution by joining S'Boalnation. There's money in it."
Dupay got the idea for S'Boalnation following the election of Barack Obama when the President-elect's transition team asked the nation's citizens to submit questions about the country's most serious issues. The No. 1 question cited in Round 1 of the poll on Change.gov did not focus on the economy, Iraq or Afghanistan, health care or immigration. The question that got the largest response, by far, was this one:
Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?
"This isn't about smoking it," Dupay said. "This is about finding solutions."
S'Boalnation members pay $94.20 to join the cause and $24.20 per month, then are compensated for members they sign up. All expenses (home office, mileage, cell phone, etc.) are tax deductible and Dupay donates $5 of each payment to the charity of each member's choice. There are incentives for merchandise sales, too.
No, Dupay insists, this is not just some pot pyramid scam.
The business launched Dec. 15, so memberships have just starting trickling in; about 150 or so. But with his Web site, media exposure and weekly teleconferences, Dupay plans on spreading his gospel.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the mother of all marijuana advocacy groups, was asked via e-mail to comment on Dupay's endeavor. The response:
"There are likely hundreds of so-called pro-reform entities on the Internet, some are actual non-profit organizations like NORML (which has been working full-time since 1970 as a non-profit), most are commercial web pages seeking to make money. Most of these web pages are not actually involved in law reform, but want to make $ off the potential web page traffic by selling online ads, 'memberships,' products, etc. ... Most of these web pages are redundant and fail. ... At this time, NORML has no public opinion re: another one of these web pages."Dupay was surprised NORML, a group with the same end game, would be so dismissive of his efforts.
"You mean to tell me the director of NORML isn't pocketing some cash?" he asked. "Making money doesn't make it bad. Shame on NORML for not encouraging everyone who wants to help."
The movement was in the news in January when New Jersey voted to become the 14th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Another 13 states have similar legislation on their dockets in 2010.
"The S'Boalnation, baby," Dupay said. "It's here."
Living & Dreaming
Dupay has a mental exercise. It's called "Dream Sheet."
Every day he takes out a piece of paper and writes down goals he would like to accomplish in his life. If even a ridiculous notion comes to him -- shooting free throws on Mars, for example -- he puts it down. Why not? It's just a Dream Sheet.
But basketball no longer shows up among his list of aspirations. The last time he played was when he dominated a Wednesday night men's league last summer and needed every one of the seven days between games for his back (herniated disk surgery) and knees (four more operations) to recover.
Now when Dupay dreams he thinks about standing atop a podium on the Mall in Washington with thousands of people lined around the Reflecting Pool immersed in his every word and chanting his cause.
S'Boalnation in the nation's capital.
"I'm taking classes now," he said. "I have two personal coaches who are working with me on how to interact with different size crowds. Body language. Eye contact. Hand gestures. Facial expressions. I need to be ready for the big push."
Awkward pause. Curious glance. Neither fazed him. They never do.
Neither does the suggestion that most would think Teddy Dupay, nearly a decade removed from glory, is living in a Fantasyland.
He shrugged. Then smiled.