Revealing One-Hour Documentary Chronicles Troubled Career and Life of Former Raiders Receiver
“If he could have played long enough, he could have been the greatest wide receiver that ever played.” – John Madden, Former Raiders Head Coach, on Warren Wells
“The most dynamic receiver in football, the most feared player in the AFL.” – Bill Walsh, then the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals (1968-1975), on Wells
Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells Narrated by Sway Calloway, Oakland Native and Hip Hop Icon
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – January 3, 2019 – What if one of the best football players in the NFL were sent away to live in a dangerous cult? What if his mind was subjected to various forms of brainwashing and thought control? The thought of it is too incredible to be believed…but it happened. Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells, a one-hour documentary about the life of former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Warren Wells, debuts on Saturday, January 12 at 7:00 p.m. PST on NBC Bay Area/KNTV (@nbcbayarea).
NBC Sports Bay Area (@NBCSAuthentic) will provide an encore presentation of Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells on Thursday, January 24 at 8:30 p.m. PST. Visit NBCSportsBayArea.com for additional air dates and times.
For three seasons – 1968 through 1970 – Warren Wells was perhaps the best receiver in football. He averaged over a thousand yards receiving, 12 touchdowns, and over 23 yards every time he touched the football for the Raiders. In his four years with the Raiders, Wells caught 156 passes for 3,634 yards and 42 touchdowns.
But problems with alcohol led Wells down a perilous path, one that led him to be “sentenced” to a new age treatment facility called Synanon.
With “houses” in downtown Oakland and San Francisco, and two compounds in Marin County, Synanon was well known to Bay Area residents in the 1970s, but few knew what was really going on inside its walls: a dangerous “game” in which residents were subjected to abuse and ridicule until they eventually broke down. Once subjugated, the “players” were coerced to join Synanon, donate all of their possessions to the group, and “never leave.” Eventually the “self-help group” asked to be classified as a religion. This is the world Warren Wells walked into in January of 1972.
Wells, 76, died on December 27, 2018 just days after what is reported to be the Raiders’ final game in the Oakland Coliseum. Only a few Raiders fans still remember him as a shooting star that lit up the old American Football League; few others know how that star fell after football. Almost no one, however, knows the full story, Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells.
“As a young boy growing up in Hayward, California, my first sports love was the Oakland Raiders, especially the dynamic offense of ‘The Mad Bomber’ Daryle Lamonica and his receivers Warren Wells, Fred Biletnikoff and tight end Raymond Chester. In 1971 we all wondered what had happened to Warren Wells – we knew he was in trouble – but we thought he’d be back better than ever the next year,” said Ted Griggs, President, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming Leader for NBC Sports Regional Networks. “When my father took me to a preseason game in 1972, I saw Wells go out for a pattern and even at 11-years old I knew something was wrong. He ran in slow motion.”
Griggs added: “When I got a chance to work with John Madden in the 1980s and 1990s, I asked him about Warren. John told me that he suspected that something happened to him in Synanon – and he was never the same. That began a near three decade curiosity to find out what really happened to Warren Wells. I began working on this project in earnest in 2015 and I think, finally, I’ve found some of the answers. I’m also left with many more questions. I know Warren was loved and cared for in his final years by his nephew Wyron and sister-in-law Consetta. They helped him successfully battle his problems with alcohol and live happily in his final years. I do hope Warren Wells rests in peace.”
Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells is narrated by Oakland native, radio personality, hip-hop artist and Oakland Raiders fan Sway Calloway (@RealSway).
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Liza Catalan/NBC Bay Area
Jay dela Cruz/NBC Sports Bay Area