Friday, April 05, 2013
ESPN: "30 for 30: Broke": many pro sports players lose all their wealth shortly after retirement
ESPN has a series of programs (slightly over an hour) called “30 for 30”, launched in 2009. One of the more recent episodes is called “30 for 30: Broke”, directed by Billy Corben, about how many professional athletes go broke within two to five years of retirement, particularly in the NFL and NBA.
As much as professional athletes make, many spend wildly and do not make it very long on what they earned. There is a variety of reasons for this. One is that many have little financial education; schools that make a lot of money off of them do nothing to teach them financial literacy. Another is that, in some sports, there is a “good old boy” system for getting to work with them as a financial planner (just as there is for being a sports agent – remember Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire”?) That appears to be true in the NFL and NBA, but maybe not MLB.
Another problem, bluntly speaking, is women. Athletes marry carelessly without pre-nups, or have children, and women are able to extract huge claims for support. This sounds a bit like good old soap opera.
The “film” is rather oppressive, consisting of constant brief sound-bites from athletes who stumbled. But near the end, there is a scene in a new financial literacy class.
The link for the episode is here.
In Major League Baseball, I would expect the problems to be less severe, partly because careers can last longer (into the 40s). But players coming up from the Dominican Republic (“Pelotero”, July 13, 2012 on Movies blog) would be less well-informed and many (as in football and basketball) are expected to send money home to families (including parents and siblings) in their native country. Players raised and educated in the US with middle class backgrounds or even religious backgrounds (like some of the Nationals) would seem to be much less vulnerable and would appear to have learned “personal responsibility” in finance.
The film briefly touched on the medical issues of sports retirees. Dementia in former football players from concussions is beginning to the attention of the media, the NCAA and the NFL.
One would think that players' unions would pay more attention to the problems covered in this episode.