(Originally written by B.C. on January 6, 2013)
Many sports enthusiasts as well as casual observers are still buzzing from the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled: “Broke”. The documentary profiles several former professional athletes from various sports who have managed to squander their finances. From my observation, these athletes’ misfortunes are somewhat self-explanatory. There are many factors that go into these athletes going broke.
One of the biggest factors that play into these athletes going from riches to rags is their socioeconomic upbringing. Though by no means do I, or any of you use this a crutch for these athletes, but it has been well-documented that many professional athletes, particularly those athletes in the NBA and NFL where the player population is predominately African-American, spent their early years experiencing less than desirable living conditions, and in many cases, their way of living at that time became the driving force that would propel them to exceptional, even otherworldly athletic achievement that in their minds would ensure that they or their families would no longer have to experience meager living standards again in their lives.
Unfortunately, many of them were wrong.
One of the byproducts of the conditions of their upbringing would be mismanagement of finances. The saying that goes, “People with nothing aren’t used to having anything, even after they finally do get it” rings all too true among these athletes that go broke. The previously stated quote is nothing more than a testament to human nature itself. What should we expect when we sign a 19 or 20 year old young man who may or may not have any college experience under their belts to a contract worth of millions of dollars? To exacerbate the problem with why many of these athletes go broke is because many of them are wealthy even before they shoot their first jump shot, score their first touchdown, or hit their first home run. This is a recipe for disaster. To be realistic, we can not expect these young men (I’m emphasizing the male athlete because the instances of the female athlete going broke is very rare and is almost unheard of) to maintain and even increase their newly attained wealth over a span of generations that will ensure financial stability for themselves and their families for generations to come, especially when they are easily influenced by family members, “friends”, agents, and other new found hangers-on that reek of alterior motives and jealousy, and care nothing about the athlete outside of what that particular athlete can do to assist these toxic people financially.
I also blame the educational institutions that these athletes hone the very same athletic skills that allow them the opportunity to compete in the highest levels of their respective sports that contribute to their eventual personal financial demise. You may ask, “Why would these athletes’ schools and colleges be to blame for these athletes going broke? ” My answer to this concern would be that the coaches at these high schools and colleges do not require or even suggest that their athletes receive an adequate education on finances, nor do they instill in them a belief that the life span of their athletic careers are relatively small in comparison to their actual lives. This means that if the athletes were properly taught by their schools the value of money, and the athletes are in a position to make the big bucks, they will be properly prepared to handle their finances, whether it be through saving, investing, or maximizing their earning potential during their playing careers so that they are able to acquire even more wealth. Sadly enough, this too often is not the case. The coaches, especially those coaches in the NCAA Division 1 levels, are under such pressure to get their teams to perform at optimum levels, that emphasis on their athletes’ well-being (let alone their financial well-being) are often neglected for the sake of the athletic betterment of that school’s athletic program. As a result, these young men often lack the business acumen that is desperately needed in their future careers as professional athletes.
Once these young men advance to the professional ranks of their respective sports, the semi sheltering and nurturing environment provided by these athletes’ college programs suddenly disappears. They are left to fend for themselves in an environment that is already established to be hyper-competitive and predatory, and unfortunately this type of environment combined with a lack of thorough financial know how extends over to their lavish lifestyles. From automobiles, to excessive houses that these athletes will never fully utilize for them or their families, to other trivial items that are greatly overpriced, many of these athletes live a lifestyle that even exceeds their multi-million dollar salaries.
Another factor that leads to these pro athletes going broke that people are often reluctant to discuss are the countless paternity suits, child support and alimony payments, as well as shady player agents and other people of little or no character who only seek leech from these athletes. That being stated, I will note that I do not condone the irresponsible sexual behavior and ill advised marriages that these professional athletes become involved in that eventually leads to their financial ruin. However, we must acknowledge that these athletes are involved in situations that prove time and time again to be detrimental to their financial well being.
However, there are solutions that would prove beneficial to the financial well being of professional athletes in the future that would prevent them from going broke, and break the continual cycle of financial crisis for these athletes.One solution would be to strongly emphasize an extensive education and understanding of money management while these athletes are still in the student-athlete stage of their athletic careers. Another solution that may not be as popular or embraced would be for the athlete to shrink their social circles. The term “small and tight circle” is an often used slogan, but it proves to be very beneficial when someone like these professional athletes become men of means. They must be very selective about who they choose to associate themselves with socially, especially in their dating relationships and marriages. A third solution that would prove highly effective to prevent pro athletes from going broke would be to practice discipline. Learning to say no to people who do not have their best interests at heart, and learning to walk away from purchasing items they do not need will only prove to help them and their families in the long run, thus creating financial stability as well as a very strong possibility for generational wealth.