Monday, April 9, 2012

The NFL Needs a Little Socialism

Posted by on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Two stories caught my eye on the ESPN website this morning. One is of 22-year-old defensive tackle Dontari Poe, a 6-foot-3, 346-pound "physical freak" whose 4.98 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine is about to lift him out of abject poverty and transform him into an instant millionaire:

To Poe, that isn't pressure. Pressure is not having food to eat or a place to live. It is watching your big brother carted off to jail on drug and gun charges. It is growing up without a father as an active participant in your life. It is watching your mother struggle to make ends meet. It is living in a dangerous neighborhood in a city where trouble is easy to find, if you want it.

The other headline was of 39-year-old former NFL superstar defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who just five years removed from a 13-year career that earned him 7 trips to the Pro Bowl, 1 Super Bowl ring, and countless millions of dollars, has filed for bankruptcy:

Former NFL star Warren Sapp owes more than $6.7 million to creditors and back child support and alimony, according to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in South Florida.

Sapp's $6.45 million in assets includes 240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500; a $2,250 watch; and a lion skin rug worth $1,200.

It's almost a cliché.

I know that the NFL and other professional sports leagues provide incoming players a little financial counseling, and for those who play long enough to vest, a small pension. But that isn't enough. I'm not sure what the exact solution would be, but many of these young men are clearly unready to responsibly manage their windfalls, and so the league—which profits so enormously from their players' brief careers—has an obligation to do a better job of preparing them for the perils of sudden fortune, and the sudden loss of income that follows.


Comments (18) RSS

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Theodore Gorath 1
I do find it hard to be sympathetic to people who have millions and simply piss it away due to deep emotional immaturity, a willing lack of foresight, and the complete neglect of their own financial lives.

But seeing how the NFL basically does nothing for its players outside of legal obligations, I suppose I would have no reason to object to such a program.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on April 9, 2012 at 8:20 AM · Report this

It's the Jack Benny's with moths in their wallets that cause all the problems.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 9, 2012 at 8:23 AM · Report this
I wonder if the NFL player alumnus who commit crimes, go to jail, declare bankrupycy, etc., is statastically different from the general populace? My idle famaliarity with the NFL says probably not. But I wonder if we compare NFL vets with other pro sports vets, is there statistical differences?
Posted by fARTing on April 9, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
danewood 4
Warren Sapp, Terrel Owens and others like them didn't lose their millions by just lavishing themselves and their friends with material goods, they lost most of their cabbage by making a bunch of poor investments. I'm willing to bet that many of them were taken advantage of. I wonder if part of the financial counseling includes teaching players how to recognize a sound vs. unsound investment? If not it really should.
Posted by danewood on April 9, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
Hernandez 5
@4 The investment aspect is probably pretty huge. Most stories I've read about athletes who lose all their money make some mention of failed investments, and it's not just people who grew up poor either. Mark Brunell comes to mind.
Posted by Hernandez on April 9, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
lark 6
I read about Sapp yesterday and at first was surprised (largely at the amount he apparently owes, $6.45 million!) but then again, not so much. Bloody sad and ridiculous. I did read that the NFL does have a program of financial counseling. But clearly if Sapp attended a session at all, it didn't work.

This seems to be an intractable problem with male pro athletes (the list is very long but here are a few, John Unitas, Jack Clark, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Shawn Kemp, O. J. etc.) vs. female pro athletes. I've only heard of one celebrity athlete, Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby who had major financial problems. And granted, there are far more male pro athletes than female. But still, I wonder what if any, role gender plays into these financial crises. I do believe youth plays a big role. One is simply more foolish in youth. BTW, I read recently Allen Iverson is having $ issues.
Posted by lark on April 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
JF 7
Rookies are granted access to the best financial products and minds money can buy through the NFL. It's really not fair to say "they don't do enough" when rookies are sent to multiple camps and drilled with information on how to avoid this exact type situation. And if you're going to talk NFL and profit, you need to recognize that the NFLPA rightfully earns their fare share which means they bare some of the responsibility you're preaching about. 55% of TV Revenues (the largest stream when it comes to the NFL) goes to the NFLPA.
Posted by JF on April 9, 2012 at 9:21 AM · Report this
JF 8
@5 Absolutely. That's my understanding of why the majority of athletes go broke - using financial advisers or investment vehicles not approved or recommended by the league.
Posted by JF on April 9, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Successfully "retiring" before the age of 40 is difficult in any field. Let alone one where you self-inflict brain trauma on yourself for years at a time.
Posted by tiktok on April 9, 2012 at 9:32 AM · Report this
It is false to say the players get very little in the way of financial advice. They receive it from both the NFL and the union (NFLPA).

These are seldom 22-year-old kids we're talking about. The young players may buy too many cars and jewelry and strip-club dances, but more typically it's the older player who makes bad investment decisions, despite having access to the best financial advisors money can buy. At that point it's pretty hard to blame the league.
Posted by bigyaz on April 9, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
@6: You'd be hard-pressed to find a female athlete making anywhere close to the kind of money that men make in the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc.
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on April 9, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this

Female professional athletes, of course, are not paid anywhere near what male pros make, neither in salary nor in product sponsorship deals.

I think I'd probably make better decisions with less money, personally. If I got a sudden windfall of a couple million, my sometimes unhelpful brain would say something like "you're set for life, you don't have to worry about money ever again." With tens of thousands, my sometimes unhelpful brain would want to spend days reading dubious investment advice on the internet.
Posted by robotslave on April 9, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 13
@7 You're exactly right. The NFL goes to great lengths to help rookies manage their finances & lives. They even have a program with the Wharton School.
The problem is a classic 'Horse to Water' situation. Far too many of these guys have barely a middle school education and the corresponding life skills. If they didn't learn much of anything during the couple of years they spent at a university, a few seminars aren't going to make much of a difference.
Posted by Sir Vic on April 9, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
I do not agree with arguments that boil down to "These former NFL players you hear about, they are poor because they are stupid."

There are quite a lot of rich stupid people walking around out there, and a lot of them will die rich and stupid.

Being rich is not a matter of brainpower; just ask any university professor. Being rich is a first and foremost a consequence of societal structure, and in our particular society, it can quite easily be the result of pure dumb luck.
Posted by robotslave on April 9, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
The NFL has always been like that, quite frankly.

At least according to the former football stars we study, that is.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 9, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 16
Why should only pro athletes get financial education?

I find it outrageous that economics and finance aren't required courses in grade school. A country based on capitalism and money that doesn't even teach its citizens about capitalism and money. Idiotic.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 9, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
tainte 17
oh, i'm supposed to feel bad about these idiots? am i also expected to feel bad about mc hammer or vanilla ice? if you don't realize that pissing your money away on gold gates and 300 pairs of jordans is stupid, then you deserve to lose all your money.
Posted by tainte on April 9, 2012 at 12:18 PM · Report this
JonnoN 18
Why, I watched the first two-thirds of "MC Hammer: Behind the Music" and if there's one thing I learned about money it's that it never runs out!
Posted by JonnoN on April 9, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this

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