It usually doesn't seem like news when a professional athlete signs a multimillion dollar contract. It hasn't been for years. But when a 2009 Sports Illustrated article revealed that more than half of former NFL and NBA players go broke shortly after retiring, it was stunning for many.
And it left others wondering how and why. So director Billy Corben tackled the issue of the many retired athletes' poor finances in the latest edition of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. In his film Broke, Corben interviewed numerous sports figures and financial advisers to find out why and how so many professional athletes end up broke either during their careers or shortly thereafter.
Not surprisingly, Corben addressed the common beliefs for why many athletes go broke: reckless spending on objects such as luxurious houses and jewelry and being unable to say "no" to friends and family. Several of the athletes interviewed admitted to being inspired by the bling bling aspect of hip-hop culture.
But he also brought up another reason why many pro athletes don't have as much money as they think they have: taxes. Everyone knows that Uncle Sam takes a huge chunk of their paycheck, but athletes are taxed in most, if not all, states they play a game in.
Of course, many athletes have hired financial advisers but unfortunately, some of those trusted advisers have been white collar criminals who have led their clients into financial ruin. One might think the Drew Rosenhauses of the world could provide their clients smart financial advice but as Broke astutely pointed out, negotiating a million dollar contract and providing financial advice are totally different skills.
One thing I would have liked to have seen in Broke were athletes who seem to have done everything correctly financially, such as Magic Johnson. While it may have been better television to hear the stories of those who have screwed up, it would have been fascinating to hear what some did correctly.
While Broke may not be timeless as other pieces in the 30 for 30 series, the stories of broke athletes will probably not change. Only the names will.