On Thursday, the NFL will conduct its annual draft in Chicago, and once again several young men will see their net worth rise exponentially.
While the health risks of playing football have never been higher, the financial reward for many is well worth it. “I would do it all over again, despite all the things [health issues] that have come with it,” said Larry Tharpe, who played nine seasons in the NFL after being drafted out of Tennessee State University. “Playing in the National Football League provided a great financial opportunity for me to take care of not only myself, but my entire family.”
The rewards are high, but only to those who make the right choices.
The key to these young men maintaining their financial status, and even making it grow, will be how they handle their money during the course of their career.
Sadly, many don’t. According a study by Sports Illustrated conducted in 2009, 78 percent of NFL players will eventually file for bankruptcy. This is a problem for not only black athletes, but white athletes as well. And it can happen to anyone. from stars like Andre Rison in the NFL, to Kenny Anderson in the NBA.
However, if the next group of millionaires handle their business, they can maintain that lifestyle, or at the very worst, give themselves a head start on life.
“These young men need to understand that it is time to go to work,” explained Brian Ransom, who was one of the pioneers of pro sports agents for African-Americans in the late ’80s and ’90s. “This is what you have worked for, and dreamed of. But getting into the NFL is not the end, it is beginning. The work has just begun, and you are going to have to work even harder just to stay there.”
Ransom said new draftees should enter the league with a financial plan, and an understanding of exactly how much money they are making.
“Guys come in with dreams of doing this and doing that (with their money), but when you put all of that down on paper, it looks a whole lot different. So, it is critical to make wise financial decisions, and understand how your money works. At the very least you can do like Marshawn Lynch and put your money in the bank. They pay you interest when you put money in the bank. They charge you interest when you are borrowing their money.”
Pamela McGee, the hall of fame WNBA and Olympic basketball player, and the mother of NBA veteran JaVale McGee and Imani Boyette who was recently drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft, is a financial consultant to professional athletes.
McGee keeps it very real. “Baby mama drama, and child support will make anybody broke,” McGee said. “Child support is one of the entities that you can’t even file bankruptcy from to avoid having to pay money. Child support is not taxable, and it is not taxable on the payer. You got that payment for the next 18 years and you are not going to be able to get out of child support, and professional careers do not last that long.”
So, you need to have a sound financial plan, and some practical advice on life (avoiding baby mama drama, being professional), now is the time to get to work on the field.
“It doesn’t matter where you are drafted,” Ransom said. “In the end you are going to have to perform. Now, if you are taken on the first day (first and second rounds) you will come in with a little respect, and get a little more time.
“But if you are taken in the later rounds on the second day, you have no room for error. You got to get it from Day 1. They are not going to be patient with you at all. You are going to have to earn your respect.
“But, like I said in the end you have to show it, no matter where you were taken,” Ransom explained. “If you are taken in the early rounds you are going to have to work to keep your respect.”
The young men who are about to become part of the National Football League need to understand they are about to become professionals in every sense of the word.
And, for those who don’t, the NFL will stand for Not For Long.