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NFL Players & Their Financial Problems

NFL Players & Their Financial Problems

This weekend’s announcement that Warren Sapp, who, with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, brought home the 2002 Superbowl ring, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection begs the question of why so many lose it all after winning it all.

Sapp Files Bankruptcy

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers filed in Florida on March 30 revealed he owes more than $6.7 million to credit card companies, banks, other creditors, child support and alimony. The filing also revealed Sapp claims to have assets that total $6.45 million, much of which is sports memorabilia, including his 2002 Super Bowl ring and 1991 national championship ring, both of which he reported as lost or stolen.

Other assets include a whopping 240 pairs of Michael Jordan shoes that are worth close to $7,000, a watch valued at $2,300 and a $1,200 rug made of lion skin.

Through his filing and attorney, Sapp reports a monthly income of just less than $116K each month, along with one time payments from Showtime, CCA Sports and a publishing company that’s bought the rights to his story. Those one time payments are reported at $45,000, $48,000 and $18,675 respectively.

This isn’t the first time a major sports personality has found himself struggling with credit card payments and child support. In fact, it’s quite common. Not all will go to the drastic measures that OJ Simpson did, who’s in prison for theft and armed robbery, but there are many who face difficult financial struggles after the spotlight has faded.

Shifting the Spotlight

Those who have lived the glory of playing in the Super Bowl can attest to the reality that it’s often their last appearance on the field in a professional manner. Suddenly, they’re out of the spotlight and the fans, team owners and the media have shifted their collective focus, as well. The mundane everyday living begins and for many, it can be challenging – from both a psychological and financial aspect.

The Numbers

It comes as little surprise to many psychologists that close to 80% of all NFL players have faced unemployment, divorce and/or bankruptcy at some point after the spotlight has turned. Making that transition can be traumatic, as evidenced by the statistics.

Fear and Uncertainty

Many, fearful that they’ve lost the buying power they once enjoyed, will take that final plunge with one last free for all with the credit cards and cash. Unfortunately, it can often be like waking up from a long night that included entirely too much alcohol: it hits you, even if you can’t believe you really did it.

Many former NFL, NBA and other professional sports figures say they come to the conclusion that they no longer have that marketability or celebrity status, their name, with each passing day, becomes less pricey in terms of appearances and interviews. All those amazing free meals and other perks are now a thing of the past and then it’s time to sink or swim. Many don’t have the coping skills to swim, so they sink fast. Enter the divorce and bankruptcy attorneys and with them, the psychologists and life coaches.

Experts agree that if these sports professionals are able to differentiate the name from the man behind the sports stats, they can prevent many of the mistakes their counterparts are or have lived.

Another important realization is that it feels to these sports figures that they just got started and are now suddenly facing retirement. In fact, only 50% of NFL players have a career that lasts more than 36 months, or at lease one on the football field. That means, on average, 300 pro football players lose their jobs each and every year.

While Warren Sapp says he regrets having to file bankruptcy, there’s no doubt the former Dancing with the Stars celebrity would much prefer to have his name in the media for any other reason than financial struggles.

The Harsh Light of Day

There have been no hard figures released regarding how much of his debt has to do with credit cards, but they could be substantial. The assumption is these professionals retire wealthy and for the most part, they do. Once you’ve factored in unexpected losses such as divorce, coupled with the fact many of these pro ball players never anticipated ever needing a more traditional job, it becomes clearer as to why many fall on hard times. A good investment advisor is always recommended; however, it’s not until they’re reflecting back that they can see where they might have rethought their decisions.

And, too, the former athletes that have managed to stay in the spotlight with other high paying gigs represent a very small percentage of those who retire every year. Not every former pro ball player can land a spot on Monday night football. It’s just one more reason to cover the bases before they’re 35 and realize they’re suddenly retired.

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