- May 29, 2001
Mark Rypien’s longtime domestic partner filed a lawsuit against the former NFL quarterback, accusing him of years of physical and mental abuse.
In the lawsuit, filed in mid-May at a state courthouse in Spokane, Wash., Rypien’s partner was identified as Danielle Wade. She has used his last name at times, and the 59-year-old Rypien has referred to her publicly as his wife, but they never married.
In 2019, after he was charged with domestic violence, the couple signed a joint letter as “Mark & Danielle Rypien” and declared “he did not commit any crime.” In the letter, they stated “Mark suffers from what we suspect is [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] and that does leave us with some challenging situations to navigate.” Rypien pleaded not guilty to the fourth-degree assault charge, in which he was accused of hitting Wade while he was driving a car they were in, and the case was dismissed.
Wade’s lawsuit revisited that episode as one instance on a list of alleged acts of abuse but also as an example of the “media power” wielded by the Super Bowl-winning quarterback, particularly in eastern Washington, where he was raised and starred in college. That local celebrity status also factored into Wade’s inability to sever their relationship, per the court filing, which claimed she was effectively bound to him by “fear, by public marital duty, loyalty and by the caregiver role she was assigned, even while being traumatized herself.”
The 2019 letter was referred to in the lawsuit with quotation marks as a “joint” statement crafted by Rypien’s defense attorney, suggesting that Wade was not an active participant. Rypien was accused of violence against her in 2020 and of resisting Wade’s efforts to “bring the public ‘husband and wife’ relationship to a conclusion” between February 2021 and February 2022.
According to the court filing, the two met in 2002 and were living together by the following year. After Wade came to understand that Rypien had been diagnosed with brain injuries and was “likely” suffering from CTE, per the lawsuit, he “began to tell [Wade] about his desire to hurt others, which [she] perceived as warnings to her.”
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The year 2008 marked the “first time [Wade] felt significant pain and fear for her life” because of an alleged act of abuse by Rypien, according to the lawsuit, which then detailed other violent episodes as part of “a pattern of physical abuse [that] developed alongside emotional abuse.”
“Danielle Wade was with Mark Rypien for over 18 years. She continues to have empathy for him,” an attorney for Wade, Mary Schultz, said in a statement Tuesday. “But his past trauma does not give him license to inflict trauma on her. Injuries resulted, and those injuries have to be addressed. … The NFL and the media focus on a player’s trauma, but behind that player is a well-known wake of traumatized companions and family members who do not and cannot speak out, but who suffer very real injuries from the players’ conditions.”
An attorney for Rypien said in a statement (via the Associated Press) that the former quarterback “categorically and unequivocally condemns domestic violence.”
“He had a relationship with Danielle Wade that ended recently,” the statement read. “During this relationship, Mr. Rypien acknowledged and apologized for actions that were harmful to Ms. Wade for which he is truly sorry. He has full faith in the judicial system and hopes the parties can reach a just resolution so that they can move forward living their separate lives.”
Wade was described in the lawsuit as remaining “fearful of threats from [Rypien], as well as from fans and supporters seeking favor with [him].”
Her legal team stated in the filing that Wade needed to bring her lawsuit for damages because Washington’s “committed intimate relationship dissolution remedies are not tailored for damage relief in this kind of partnership.” The suit wants Rypien’s alleged years of abuse to be treated as a “single unitary continuing tort of domestic violence against [Wade],” as opposed to separate acts for which, in many cases, the state’s statute of limitations has expired.
A sixth-round pick by Washington in the 1986 draft, Rypien became the team’s full-time starter in 1989 and led it to the NFL championship after the 1991 season. A two-time Pro Bowl selection with Washington, Rypien was waived in 1994 after refusing to accept a pay cut. He latched on with Cleveland and played for three other teams before his career ended in 2002.
In 2018, Rypien went public with his mental health struggles, which included at least one attempt to take his own life. He credited Wade with saving him in that episode by forcing him to vomit out more than 100 sleeping pills he had swallowed and chased with a bottle of wine.
At the time, Rypien also acknowledged a 2017 incident that led to police filing a domestic violence report.
“Part of this thing is getting the right medications. When you use something that doesn’t address that? That impulse control? You go from zero to 60 very quickly,” Rypien said then of that incident, for which charges were eventually dropped. “I don’t remember that night. I remember losing control.”