By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com (Updated October 10, 2018)

Did you know that 78% percent of NFL players are under financial stress or bankrupt just two years into retirement. Within five years of retirement, 60% of NBA players are broke, according to Sports Illustrated.

In the ESPN documentary “Broke,” Director Billy Corben provides a “step-by-step guide on how to go broke” by talking to the current and former professional athletes who’ve gone broke themselves or have watched teammates and peers drain their bank accounts.

A disturbing large number of Black athletes have squandered millions of dollars due to bad business decisions, divorces, child support payments, uncontrolled lavish spending, overall poor financial planning and lack of personal discipline.

Two of the more recent athletes in the news who have gone broke are former NFL stars Vince Young and Jamal Lewis.

In August 2012, former NFL player Jamal Lewis, 32, was arrested and charged with child abandonment.  Earlier this year Lewis declared bankruptcy.   He is one of many professional athletes to file for bankruptcy.  According to court records, Lewis has $14.5 million in assets, and $10.6 million in liabilities.  Court documents also reflected that Lewis now earns $35,000 per month, and spends $34,050 of it.  In addition, Lewis’ cars cost $5,700 per month, his mortgage is $6,000 per month and he owns a $200,000 boat, along with a $150,000 Ford F-650 XUV.   Lewis also owns other vehicles, which explains why his car payments are so high.  The court documents reflected that Lewis did not contribute anything to charity.

In July 2009, Lewis continued to play football.  While still with the Ravens, Lewis invested in a cross country trucking business.  His company had a fleet of around 200 trucks delivering perishable goods.  Lewis personally guaranteed the loans with his bank.  By June 2010, Baltimore County Circuit Court records reflected that M&T bank won a judgment last year against Lewis for more than $350,000 in unpaid lease installments and late fees and $35,000 in attorney fees.

On July 30, 2006, Vince Young, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, signed a six-year contract with the Tennessee Titans that was worth $48 million dollars.  The contract had a maximum value of $57.79 million, with $25.74 million guaranteed.  Here we are six later and young is out of the league and according to his lawyer, has run out of money.

Young earned over another $4 million last season with the Philadelphia Eagles and signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Buffalo Bills in May.  Young was released in August before the start of the regular NFL season.

Let’s take a look at some of the athletes who have “gone broke.”

  • Eddy Curry – A few years ago, NBA player Eddy Curry, despite making over $60 million in his career, Eddy Curry (NBA) is in serious debt while still shooting the ball. According to an Associated Press report, Curry defaulted on a $575,000 loan with an 85 percent interest rate (you read that rate correctly—85%).  Curry was ordered by a judge to pay back $1.2 million to Allstar Capital Inc.  Curry reportedly lost his $3.7 million home to foreclosure while trying to maintain monthly expenses exceeding $250,000 per month.  Curry is currently in training camp with the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Warren Sapp —The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Oakland Raider and NFL Network commentator 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.
  • Dennis Rodman — The eccentric Hall of Fame basketball star is allegedly broke and behind on over $800,000 of child support bills. Rodman’s also been challenged in court for failure to pay child and spousal support to his third wife, Michelle.
  • Travis Henry — This former NFL Running Back has 11 children with 10 different women.  Henry fell behind on child support payments and reportedly tried other avenues to generate money.  Henry currently serving jail time for cocaine trafficking.
  • Latrell Sprewell — Early in his career this former NBA player turned down a $21 million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves citing that the contract did not offer enough money because he had a “family to feed.”  According to MSNBC, Sprewell had his Italian yacht seized by a U.S. marshal after his mortgage went into default. Eventually his home, valued at $5.4 million, went into foreclosure in 2008 despite the fact that he made nearly $100 million during his career.
  • Lawrence Taylor — The NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker’s life has been marred by cocaine addiction, statutory rape charges and bad investments. Taylor also plead guilty to tax evasion.
  • Kenny Anderson — The NBA Point Guard was already broke by the time he retired from the NBA in 2005 after making approximately $60 million.  Since then, he went back to school, got a degree and is now the boys’ basketball coach at David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Fla.  Anderson accumulated over $40,000 in monthly expenses to go along with child support for eight children.  Anderson also owned eight cars, a home in Beverly Hills, a $10,000 monthly allowance, and regular $3,000 giveaways to relatives. In his divorce, he lost nearly $6 million in a prenuptial agreement.
  • Scottie Pippen — Although he made an estimated $120 million during his playing days, former NBA great Scottie Pippen lost millions in mismanaged money (he sued his former law firm for the mismanaging). He also made the ill-advised purchase of a $4 million Gulfstream jet and later found out it needed $1 million worth of engine repair.  At one point, Pippen owed U.S. Bank more than $5 million in principal, interest and attorneys’ fees, which he reportedly could not afford.  On June 30 of this year, Mr. Pippen left the Cook County courthouse in tears after a jury awarded him $2 million out of the $8.2 million he was seeking in one of those lawsuits against two attorneys at the Chicago law firm Pedersen & Houpt.
  • Terrell Owens — Back in January 2012, former NFL player known as “T.O.” admitted to GQ magazine that he was friendless, almost broke and “in hell.” He claimed that he lost his millions not because of an extravagant lifestyle, but because financial advisers steered him astray.
  • Evander Holyfield — The former 4 time Heavyweight boxing champion who made over $250 million during his career said:  “I’m not broke; I’m just not liquid.”  Holyfield’s $10 million 54,000 square foot home with 109 rooms on 234 acres was foreclosed in 2008.  He also owed a landscaping company over $500,000 in unpaid services and had problems paying child support for his 11 children.  Holyfied also owed $200,000 in back taxes.  The good news is that the house recently sold at auction for $7.5 million.  The bad news is that at the time of the sale Holyfield owed more than $14 million.
  • Deuce McAllister — Former NFL player McAllister lost millions when his Nissan dealership in Jackson, Miss. went belly up in 2009. Nissan is currently suing him, claiming the dealership defaulted on hundreds of thousands in payments and even more on exceeded credit limits.
  • Michael Vick — The elusive NFL Quaterback filed for Chapter 11 in 2008 after serving prison time for participating in a dog fighting ring. He lost millions in all sorts of ways, including failing to pay for 130 rental cars and defaulting on a loan to set up a wine store. Vick’s appears to be headed in the right direction as he recently signed a $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Muhsin Muhammad — The former NFL Wide Receiver owed tens of thousands in overdue credit card bills and ended up selling his home on eBay.
  • Antoine Walker – Former NBA star Antoine Walker, earned more than $110 million and filed for bankruptcy in 2009, one year after retiring from the NBA.  Walker’s financial moves reportedly included supporting 70 family and friends, building his mother a 10-bathroom mansion, owning at least two Bentleys and two Mercedes and collecting watches.  In an interview with ESPN’s First Take TV show on October 2, 2012, Walker said, his financial woes were not largely due to gambling.  He admitted to gambling but not as much as has been reported.  Walker said his problems stemmed from bad investments in the real estate market, bad advice and supporting a lavish lifestyle with friends and family.
  • Raghib “Rocket” Ismael – Ismael played two years in Canada and 10 in the NFL, earning an estimated $18 million to $20 million in salary alone. He then started to invest in a series of ventures that went bust, including a Rock n’ Roll Café, COZ Records, a movie, cosmetics, nationwide phone-card dispensers, and calligraphy proverbs kiosks.
  • Mike Tyson – This former boxer may be the “King of Broke.”  Tyson reportedly earned over $400 million during his career.  Tyson’s fall from grace included a nasty divorce, a rape charge that led to a prison sentence, felony possession of drugs and a DUI charge.  At one point, Tyson was worth less that $700 dollars.  His situation has improved. He appears to be doing well in recovery for drug and alcohol problems, has remarried, had a movie made about his life and he is on Broadway starring in a play about his life.
  • Allen Iverson – This former NBA dynamo reportedly earned over $200 million in salary and endorsements is reportedly broke.  Iverson, aka “The Answer,” apparently has no answer to cure his financial woes.  Iverson reportedly owes $859,000 to a Georgia jewelry store.  Trouble seems to follow Iverson in the form of arrests for assault, carry a concealed weapon and gambling debts.

White athletes go broke too.  Names like Bernie Kosar, Mark Brunell, Johnny Unitas, Bjorn Borg, Rollie Fingers, Curt Schilling, Sean Salisbury and Lenny Dykstra have gone broke.  We chose to focus on athletes whose names and careers you are more familiar with.

Is the reporting of broke athletes different for white athletes than black athletes?  Are there more racial stereotypes associated with the black athletes?  Or is it just a matter of sports stereotypes?  We’re just asking?  We believe that many people, regardless of their race would go broke if they became a multimillionaire over night, especially, without any financial training.  We need to teach our children financial literacy skills as soon as they learn how to count.

Former college (Fab 5) and NBA player Jalen Rose explains HOW athletes go broke.

Ed Butowsky, featured in ESPN’s successful “30 for 30: Broke”, addresses how and why pro athletes find themselves in financial distress. Ed Butowsky has been in investment advising for the past 26 years and has seen first-hand how these athletes go broke.

Former Milwaukee Bucks player Vin Baker talks to fans at a summer block party Saturday, June 6, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

When Vin Baker was a 20-year-old center on the unheralded University of Hartford basketball team, Sports Illustrated called him “America’s Best Kept Secret.” Recently, it was widely reported that the former pro basketball star, who earned $100 million during 13 NBA seasons, is broke and currently in training for a managerial position at a Starbucks franchise in Rhode Island.

At first glance, Baker’s financial hardship seems incomprehensible: He managed to deplete that massive fortune only 10 years into his retirement from basketball. In fact, Baker’s situation is disturbingly common. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 78% of former NFL players face bankruptcy or financial stress within two years of retirement. That same article reported that the rate of NBA retirees going broke within five years of leaving the court was as high as 60%. The NBA says that figure was overblown and pulled out of thin air; according to an NBA union survey, within 10 years of retiring 6% to 8% of players had lost huge amounts of money or were having trouble making ends meet.

In any event, everyone acknowledges that the finances of pro athletes and retirees is a source of serious concern. Students of behavioral economics may not be surprised to learn that basketball players who demonstrate a preference for long-range, low-percentage three-pointers seem especially likely to run into financial problems when they retire.

Poor financial literacy, ill-chosen accountants and other financial advisors, high-risk investing, gambling addictions, divorce, cultures of lavish spending, and much else have led countless professional athletes to bottom out financially over the years. MONEY has put together a list of ten of the most famous flops, from the professional boxing leagues to the WNBA, as living proof that even the biggest of fortunes can have a short shelf life.

Mike Tyson

Let’s Talk Success

Eszylfie (pronounced “Es-zelfie”) Taylor is “swinging away.”

After a successful career at New York Life, the founder and president of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services in Los Angeles now manages a practice that serves 1,500 clients — which includes celebrities and Hall of Fame athletes — all while juggling a weekly radio show, recently penning a book, sitting on the boards of three non-profits and founding the non-profit Future Stars Basketball Camp.

Quarterback Steve Young and his $40 Million Annuity (Courtesy Forbes.com)
This just may be the best story about an annuity. Steve Young was signed out of Brigham Young University (BYU) and into a 40-million-dollar contract with the USFL. That was the headline but the reality was that he was given an annuity that would pay out something like $40 million over the 50 years that followed. Had it been a deal with the San Francisco 49ers (where Young really earned his NFL hall-of-famer cred), I’d say it was a raw deal. However, given the fact that some players weren’t paid for playing in the final season (or other seasons) of the USFL, accepting the annuity appears to have been a genius move on the part of either Young or his agent.

Those annuity payouts have lasted longer than the league and it’s safe to say that he has made more money than probably anyone else involved with the league. To be fair, that couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Even with a large signing bonus, and salary, he continued to wear old jeans and drive a 19-year-old Oldsmobile Dynamic (a clunker at that). In addition to outlasting the league, that annuity even outlasted the Oldsmobile car company! Who would have thought that? With a staggering number of pro athletes going broke after they retire, it’s refreshing to read stories about players who made smart financial choices.

Shout out to Rashard Mendenhall

Without question HBO’s Ballers TV series has some of the best writing, acting, producing and directing in the business. One such talent is the former NFL player and Money Baller Rashard Mendenhall who defied the odds of post-retirement financial ruin by keeping his eyes open and running his life on his own terms. He now works as one of the show’s writers. “I wasn’t supposed to walk away from the NFL, but I did. I wasn’t supposed to be writing television, but I am. I’m supposed to be lost after football. I’m not. I’ve reinvented myself. This is my first transformation. I’m supposed to be broke right now, or maybe the statistics say five years from now. Either way, I’m not even close. I’m not supposed to be anything but a football player. But really, I’m just a guy who used to play football. There’s a reason I’m doing this.”

In all fairness, we cannot ignore that good work is being done by organizations like The Azara Group, the NFL and the NFLPA are working diligently to make improvements and helping players. Examples of efforts to move the needle for athletes are the NFL’s Financial Education Program and the NFLPA’s new division called “The Trust,” which focuses on retired players and their post-pro transition.

The Azara Group is also dedicated to advancing the athletic and post-athletic careers of these champions. Career planning, business strategy, and negotiation skills are essential. In the case of pro athletes, a clear action plan for the future can help preserve their wealth. We believe in always being proactive and playing offense when it comes to the future. We help our clients strategize for career longevity and lasting financial success. These players deserve to live their dreams on the field and beyond, and our goal is to help get them there.

Former Baseball Player Steve Findley Helps Athletes Manage Their Money

1. Don’t wait. Assemble your team of advisers now

A windfall is, by definition, unexpected, so prepare before one comes your way. Professional sports draft deals, for example, are completed at lightning speed — within hours, even minutes, of making a player an offer. Make a mistake and it could cost you a lot of money. That’s why I counsel my clients to get their team in place as soon as possible. Your team should include an agent (for sports or entertainment), a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and a financial adviser who communicate regularly about your financial situation and goals. That way, when a cash event occurs in your life, you’ll be ready.

2. Protect against scams

I advise that it’s not reasonable to expect a pitcher to be a great catcher, or a center fielder to be a great short stop. You want the best person for each position. Likewise, you should avoid one-stop-shop advisers. For example, don’t let one person advise you on both your tax needs and your financial investments. That’s how scams can happen. So, make sure there’s oversight between your agent, CPA, and financial adviser. This will help create a solid system of checks and balances.

3. Ready, set, negotiate

If you’re dealing with a signing bonus, it will likely be your first exposure to a significant amount of money. And it will come with a sizable side of taxes. Should you take a lump sum, or spread out payments over time? What are the tax implications of receiving your bonus in California verses Florida? Be careful here. Work with your CPA, because these decisions could affect you financially. Your agent can help you negotiate contract terms you may not have known were negotiable, like help paying for college when your sports or entertainment career is done.

4. Pump the breaks on spending

Whether a windfall is $500,000 or $5 million, it’s likely going to be much more money than a person has seen at one time. In response, a lot of those coming into windfalls spend it before the ink dries on the check.

Young athletes who have just been drafted, for example, may buy expensive cars, houses, bling — you name it. The money just vanishes as young players try to keep up with the veterans. For example, there was a player during my MLB days that got “tricked” into purchasing a $200,000 car just to show up a veteran teammate who claimed to have one on-order as a practical joke. The last thing you want is to get to the end of the year and think, “Where did it all go?”

Professional athletes are at particularly high risk of doing this. In fact, MLB players file bankruptcy four times more often than the national average. According to Sports Illustrated, 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or under financial stress within two years of exiting the league, and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt within five years.

5. Just say no

If you come into a windfall, people are going to find out. That’s when people come out of the woodwork with “great investment” ideas. Friends, family, and strangers with no business experience start seeking you out. My personal advice: Stay away from business deals your first year.

I’ve seen players lose hundreds of thousands on restaurants, car dealerships, hometown baseball academies, and other bad deals. Learn to say “no.” And if you can’t, ask them to send their proposals to your financial adviser to review. Let them be the bad guy.

Whether you’ve just been drafted into a professional sports league (the MLB draft is right around the corner in June) or are even selling a company or are receiving some other windfall — it can be like winning the lottery. That lottery ticket can come with huge distractions. At worst, it can make you spend money you don’t have. With the right team in place, you can avoid the all-too-common pitfalls that lead to financial downfall. Asking questions is both empowering and free of charge. Not knowing the answers can cost you financially.

Steve Finley is a Financial adviser with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Rancho Santa Fe. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC, or its affiliates.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder of Gary A. Johnson Company & Associates, LLC, a management training and consulting company. The company manages a variety of Internet and digital media enterprises including Black Men In America.com, one of the most popular web sites on the Internet, Black Men In America.com Dating and the Black Men In America.com Syndicated Blog. In addition, the company manages Black Boating and Yachting.com.

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Black Men In America.com is a popular website with a focus on black men. Approximately 45% of our site visitors are women. According to Alexa Internet and Ranking.com, Black Men In America.com is consistently ranked as one of the Top 10 most popular web sites (online community) on the Internet in the Ethnic/African/African-American category. Although our focus is on black men, we welcome all people, points of views and perspectives. Please do not use this site to post or transmit any unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane or indecent information of any kind, including without limitation any transmissions constituting or encouraging conduct that would constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any local, state, national or international law. You alone are responsible for the material you post.
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Black Men In America.com Administrator
Black Men In America.com is a popular website with a focus on black men. Approximately 45% of our site visitors are women. According to Alexa Internet and Ranking.com, Black Men In America.com is consistently ranked as one of the Top 10 most popular web sites (online community) on the Internet in the Ethnic/African/African-American category. Although our focus is on black men, we welcome all people, points of views and perspectives. Please do not use this site to post or transmit any unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane or indecent information of any kind, including without limitation any transmissions constituting or encouraging conduct that would constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any local, state, national or international law. You alone are responsible for the material you post.
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