Why Ex-NFL Stars' Money Woes Typify League's Broken Culture

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IApril 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Formar NFL player Warren Sapp appears onstage at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's 24th Annual Sports Spectacular at the Century Plaza Hotel on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The National Football League is arguably the world's most successful sports industry in terms of financial ascendancy.

But that truth has done little to reshape the monetary woes of its past players, where a broken culture— filled to the brim with financial misdoings—has taken a majority of former NFL players down a street leading straight towards bankruptcy.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Warren Sapp is just the latest example.

Once one of the NFL's most dominating defensive players during a 13-year career, Sapp recently filed for bankruptcy in Florida to help cover a nearly $7 million debt he'd accumulated from creditors and back child support.

According to the Washington Post, Sapp's "assets" include "240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500, a $2,250 watch and a lion skin rug worth $1,200."

After making millions upon millions of dollars while playing in the NFL, Sapp continued working in the sport as an entertaining, loud-mouthed analyst for Showtime and NFL Network. In that role, he has reportedly made well over $100,000 a month. Yet despite all the past and current earnings, Sapp is still staring a bankruptcy situation right in the face.

It's possible that Sapp could be losing his job at the league's network too, as his contract that expires in August has yet to be renewed and isn't expected to be.

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 26:  Defensive tackle Warren Sapp #99 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Super Bowl XXXVII against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on January 26, 2003 in San Diego, California.  The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 48-21.  (Phot
Al Bello/Getty Images

While Sapp's tale lacks the sadness of some "athlete-loses-all-his-money" stories, he's certainly not the first NFL player to go down this road. In fact, he's right in the majority.

According to Sports Illustrated, over 78 percent of NFL players have either "gone bankrupt or are under financial stress" within two years of retiring from the league.

For every four players that retire from the NFL, three are expected to be bankrupt within two years. As SI states, it's a financial pandemic.

How does such a travesty happen?

There are several common avenues players go down to throw away millions, according to Business Insider.

The most prevalent way is throwing money at bad investments, as football players with little knowledge or training in business make decisions that have millions of dollars in financial ramifications. It's the fastest way to go from rich to broke in a matter of months.

Former NFL receiver Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who SI reported to having made almost $20 million while playing in the league, blindly threw millions at business investments that returned to him next to nothing in future gain. Ismail is joined by hundreds of other former NFL players who put money into "fail-proof" investments.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Divorce is another money-drainer.

Former and current NFL players are especially at risk, as the New York Times reported that 60 to 80 percent of players will eventually become divorced. That number is significantly higher than the national average, which makes sense given the kind of money and constant temptation faced by professional athletes.

Former NFL defensive tackle Kris Jenkins gave the Times a myriad of reasons why players eventually split from spouses, which the Times described as including "rampant infidelity, women who target athletes, trophy wives, lifestyles not conducive to marriage and players being surrounded by entourages, which can discourage intimacy."

Again, a culture of money perpetuates the final breaking point financially. Divorces can cost players millions of dollars by the time the dust finally settles, especially considering most splits come after the player has retired and passed his peak earning potential. It's a crippling mix.

However, business investments and divorce aren't alone in sabotaging NFL players' bank accounts.

Doing drugs, unwise real estate decisions, "acting dumb," having too many children and investing in Ponzi schemes are other ways listed by Business Insider for why athletes go from rich to broke in the blink of an eye.

While the NFL can only do so much to keep players from destroying their own money supply, promoting a more intensive program of teaching on these eventual financial downfalls would go a long way in lowering a mind-boggling number of future bankruptcy cases like Sapp's.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Not everyone will use that power, but force-feeding it may be one of the only options to medicate this pandemic.

Unless the mindset is thwarted to a certain degree, Sapp's story will be just one of the many that came before him and the many that will follow.

As long as the culture of poor financial decisions thrives in the NFL, with money being blindly invested without the backing of sound advice and divorces greatly outnumbering marriages that stick, money woes for former and current player will continue to exist.