It seems in recent years pro football players have been grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons. From Michael Vick and Pacman Jones to, most recently Aaron Hernandez, it seems that super stardom and all that comes with it is not enough to keep these talented athletes out of trouble. Perhaps the real problem is the fame, but more so the money. For many NFL rookies the sudden influx of cash is both tempting and overwhelming, they are human after all. It is estimated that 78% of NFL players go bankrupt or flat broke.
How can this happen?
Very easily is the answer. On the one side of their fame is the good stuff. The adoring fans and accolades; on the other side, the darker side, are the yes men and the long lost relatives who come calling for cash or supporting horribly awful business ventures. Pressure to “remember where they came from” is a big issue that many players face. No one wants to be the ungrateful jerk that changed when he got rich. Sadly, the money often brings out the negative people and for players who came from challenging circumstances the pressure is immense.
Players like the ones mentioned have all of the talent in the world, but no real support upon entering the arena of professional sports. During the recent drama surrounding Aaron Hernandez it came to light that he had been involved in shady activity even in college, and his coaches were in at least some capacity aware about it; aware enough to sweep it under the rug. Hernandez was arguably his college’s best player, losing him meant losing the potential to cash in on his success. Had he been put in line and disciplined, shown that he could lose it all in the blink of an eye, maybe he wouldn’t be where he is now. But, no, the money, the career came first. The story stays the same when he made the pros. He surrounded himself with trouble and no one is going to tell the man with the money what to do.
Falling by the Wayside
A player falling by the wayside legally is not the only trouble that can come from being ill prepared for sudden fame and wealth. There are many “accountants” that would love to sink their hooks into a successful player, and even more dubious business partners. The list of players who have lost on major investments is almost too long to keep track of; John Elway, Dan Marino, and Vince Young just to name a few. Big money and fame is a highly intoxicating cocktail. Some players get drunk on it and blow their fortunes, and sometimes it is others who want a taste and are willing to manipulate players out of fortunes. Either way the NFL has a big money and life management problem when it comes to its players.
With the billions that the NFL brings in annually, one would think that it wouldn’t be too hard to develop more of a support network to help its players adjust to everything that comes with being an NFL star. It is pretty evident, with 78% of players claiming bankruptcy within years of retiring that leaving them to their own devices is not working. With guidance their success can be the best thing that has happened to them, but for many who know nothing about business or handling that much money their success stories often turn into tragedies.