Andre Rison: Former NFL Star Deserves Credit for Openness in 'Broke'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

Andre Rison grabs a pass during an alumni air it out flag football game February 10 before  the 2006 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It's not easy for an athlete, competitive by nature, to admit defeat. That's why Andre Rison, who was one of the focal points of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke, deserves praise for speaking out about the perils of spending recklessly.

The special came out less than two months after Rison was placed on probation for five years and ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution after failing to pay child support. Chelsey Davis and Haley Madden of the Arizona Republic report the missed payments date back three years.

Rison was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts in 1989 and quickly established himself as one of the league's best wide receivers. He made five Pro Bowl appearances and won a Super Bowl.

As with any athlete, as his production began to increase, so did the size of his paycheck, and Rison admitted in Broke that he didn't handle the sudden fortune well. The other athletes that told their stories provided similar accounts.

While all the sports stars had unique circumstances to add to the equation, the one thing that remained relatively constant across the board was spending money at a crazy rate without taking a long enough look into the future.

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Young athletes like Rison usually have big plans for the money they make—everything from cars to jewelry to a house for their parents. Still, they don't have a clear understanding of how the financial system actually works.

The following comment by Rison, passed along by Ross Maghielse of MLive.com, from the documentary, illustrates that point.

"The first time I got my check and I saw there was a big chunk taken out of it, I went straight upstairs (to the team office) and that’s when I found out about taxes and everything," Rison said.

Rison, who hasn't played in the NFL for more than a decade, didn't know about taxes at that point, and it's the most overlooked aspect of sports contracts. All fans usually hear is how a star player is getting a new multimillion-dollar deal.

A sizable portion of that ends up in the hands of Uncle Sam, however. So the announced amount and actual take-home amount are quite different totals.

It's still a boatload of money unlike anything most young players have ever seen before. If they don't rein in their spending right away, it tends to spiral out of control, like Rison wasn't afraid to admit happened to him.

By telling his story as a cautionary tale for today's athletes, he has a chance to make a major impact on players who might be on the same slippery slope he was on at one time. He understands how easy it can be to let money get away.

If Rison can save even one current or future player from financial troubles like he's dealt with because of Broke, he can consider it a success.

His eye-opening story probably turned a lot of heads, but only time will tell if Broke resonates.


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