Smith last heard from the former NFL player in fall 2019, when he told her, “It’s not safe for [the kids] to be with me,'" she says

By Hannah Chubb
Updated October 12, 2020 02:08 PM
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Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic; Maury Phillips/WireImage

Selling Sunset star Amanza Smith had to share her family’s trauma with the world when she learned that her ex-husband, former NFL player Ralph Brown, had gone missing in August 2019, while she was in the middle of filming the Netflix show’s second season

With cameras following her at all hours of the day for more than seven months, Smith has said there was no way she could hide such a big part of her life. Brown’s disappearance became a storyline on the hit reality series as the interior designer-turned-real estate agent, 43, began fighting for full custody of their two children, daughter Noah, 10, and son Braker, 9. 

It’s now been over a year since Brown first went missing, and Smith still has no idea where he might be. Over the past few months, she has shared several updates on the situation — and how she and her family are coping. Here’s everything we know about Brown.

His marriage to Smith was short-lived.

Brown, who played football for the University of Nebraska and was a fifth-round draft pick for the New York Giants in 2000 before retiring in 2009, married Smith in July 2010. They called it quits after just two years together, divorcing in 2012. Their daughter, Noah, was born prior to the wedding, and was in attendance at the Indianapolis nuptials. Their son, Braker, was born a year later, in 2011.

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Brown and Smith shared 50/50 custody of their two kids. 

Smith has shared that, before his disappearance, she and Brown had shared equal custody of the kids for the eight years since their divorce, with the kids spending half the week with him, and half with her. 

He was allegedly unable to pay child support.

On Tuesday's episode of the Dear Media podcast Not Skinny But Not Fat, Smith told host Amanda Hirsch that Brown “paid child support for a year and a half” after their divorce “and then stopped.”

“He wasn’t in a place where he could give me support because after he retired from the NFL, he blew through his money. It’s a typical story,” she explained, noting that actor Taye Diggs, who she later dated for nearly five years, helped financially support her family while they were together. 

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He was a very involved father prior to his disappearance.

“He was a great father when he was around. He was a very loyal, hands-on, dedicated, interactive father,” Smith said of Brown on Not Skinny But Not Fat, explaining that he was always punctual, and taught the kids to be well-mannered. 

He was last seen with the kids in 2019.

In August, Smith told E! News that the last time Brown was seen was on August 26, 2019, when he dropped the kids off at their school in L.A. 

On the podcast, she added that the last time Smith heard from him was a few days later, on September 1. “He sent me an email, and he said, ‘My situation isn’t good right now. I can’t financially take care of the children. It’s not safe for them to be with me. You need to keep them until my situation changes,’” she said

His friends and teammates haven’t heard from him either.

Smith told ET in August that she’s had many people in Brown’s life contact her to see if she has any idea where he is. “I've had at least 20 of his ex-NFL teammates reach out to me saying, 'Hey, have you heard from him? Do you know what's going on?'" she shared. 

“His best friend of 20 years has no idea," she continued. "He's alive somewhere because otherwise, we would know. There are so many people actively trying and there's just no answer.”

His family members will not respond to Smith — and have blocked her.

Brown’s family, however, is actively avoiding Smith, she says. 

Smith told Hirsch that Brown's family is as unresponsive as he is, despite her attempts to contact them by phone, email and text message. “Anytime I reach out to anyone I get blocked,” she said. This has been especially traumatic for the family, she added, as the kids were “very close to their grandparents, aunts and uncles… I’ve had to pick up the pieces and mend little broken hearts.” 

He tried to change his address with the courts.

"At one point he submitted something to the courts where he did a change of address," Smith told Hirsch. She took this as evidence Brown is still alive and simply trying to live under the radar. "We traced it back, and it’s a P.O. Box at like, a UPS store,” she said.

He is not technically considered a missing person. 

Smith has said that she filed a missing person’s report after two months of not hearing from Brown, but was told that it could not be accepted because of the email that he sent her on September 1.

"I was redirected to an investigator in [the Glendale police] office, but after reviewing my case they came back to me stating that he was not a missing person because there was no sign of foul play — and he had also sent me an email telling me that it was 'not safe for the children to be with him right now,' and I would need to keep them until his situation changed,” she told E! News in August.

Smith also hired a private investigator at one point but said “they never got a visual” on his whereabouts. 

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Smith has considered that he may be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

When discussing what she thinks may have led to the disappearance, Smith told ET that she’s debated whether his football injuries — specifically CTE, a brain condition associated with repeated trauma to the head — may have something to do with it.

“In my mind, it's like, okay, if he's had some sort of mental breakdown or — he played in the NFL for 11 years, I have to wonder if maybe it's CTE,” she said, adding, “Those are real [issues].” 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, CTE is “associated with the development of dementia” and “potential signs of CTE are problems with thinking and memory, personality changes, and behavioral changes including aggression and depression.” These symptoms often don’t present until many years after the brain injuries occur. 

He was still around when Smith began filming Selling Sunset. 

Smith told ET that Brown disappeared about two weeks into filming season 2 of Selling Sunset. She joined the cast for seasons 2 and 3, and Netflix has not yet made an announcement about a fourth season. 

Seasons 1-3 of Selling Sunset are now streaming on Netflix.