It’s a widely published statistic that 78% of NFL players will go bankrupt within the first 5 years of leaving the league. It sounds impossible – and when you think about how much money players actually make, it becomes completely unbelievable, but the horrible thing is that it’s kinda proving itself to be accurate.
It’s not just a case of ‘young kid, all the money in the world’ either – while poor financial control and overspending is a large contributing factor to former NFL players going broke, sometimes it’s the players that seem to have their heads screwed on tightest that lose it all to irresponsible investments by their financial managers, uncontrollable market downturns or mountains of legal fees.
The NFL has been criticised in the past for neglecting former players over a huge range of situations – from refusing to cover healthcare, to not accepting it’s role in injuries sustained in-play, and as of late, (and with Vince Young being the latest in a long line of former stars to fall to bankruptcy), the question of players’ financial awareness and what the league can do to improve it has been brought up more and more. For someone to earn this much money once and lose it is a bit of a travesty – for it to happen year on year is evidence of a system failing.
So without further ado, lets take a look at 10 of the biggest NFL stars that went flat broke (in ascending order of losses).
10. Tiki Barber – Career Earnings: $35m
Tiki Barber was one hell of a player and pretty chilled in front of a camera, so it was only natural that he’d wind up at NBC in a nice, cushy analyst role.
He then breached contract by cheating on his pregnant wife with a 23 year old intern. He was dropped like a sack of potatoes. While he didn’t officially file for bankruptcy, any money Barber had was split between his career downturn and his now ex-wife’s settlement. He publicly declared himself broke, before attempting to rejoin the league – unsuccessfully.
9. JaMarcus Russell – Career Earnings: $40m
Widely regarded as one of the biggest draft busts of all time – JaMarcus Russell threw away every opportunity that was handed to him during his brief stint in the league. He was the first overall draft pick of the 2007 season, earning $40m in his 3 year career. He was arrested in a sweeping series of codeine abuse investigations throughout the US.
Legal fees and leaving the league so early haven’t helped Russell’s situation, with him falling behind on mortgage repayments and owing a stack of back-taxes in recent years. He attempted to jump-start his career in 2013, but failed to attract any interest.
8. Vince Young – Career Earnings: $45m
Vince Young is the most recent player to go bankrupt on this list, having squandered his career earnings and sponsorship profits almost immediately after leaving the league. He defaulted on a $1.9m payday loan in 2012, before declaring bankruptcy, one month into 2014.
7. Mark Brunell – Career Earnings: $50m
Mark Brunell was off to a good start after leaving the NFL, with a good stake in a profitable real estate business, as well as stakes in numerous Whataburger franchises throughout Florida. But in 2010, it all came crashing down. Brunell was worse than broke, defaulting on several loans and gathering massive debt.
6. Lawrence Taylor – Career Earnings: $50m
L.T. Really got along with his demons.
He developed a pet drug addiction that he nurtured throughout his rookie season and hid from league officials for quite some time, before falling into a state of full-on drug abuse after leaving the NFL, blowing his millions.
He was arrested in a number of drug stings and was caught by the IRS attempting to file a false tax return.
Then he was arrested for soliciting a 16 year old prostitute in 2011. To say it was a fall from grace would be too kind – he actively pursued the lifestyle that crushed him. It was more like he happily jumped from grace.
5. Chris McAlister – Career Earnings: $55m
Super Bowl winning Cornerback Chris McAlister kept his money troubles out of the spotlight, which is commendable given the amount of negative attention such issues usually yield on someone’s life, but when he appeared in court to lower his child support and alimony payments in 2011, the extent of his troubles were revealed.
There was nothing of his $55m earnings left. He was beyond broke, living in his parents’ basement.
4. Warren Sapp – Career Earnings: $60m
Warren Sapp was no stranger to controversy during his time both on and off the field, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, ejections, threatening behaviour, domestic battery and the infamous skipping incidents, but he managed to land a job with the NFL network nonetheless.
Things caught up to Sapp in 2010, when his business ventures began to fail. It was discovered that on top of his lost investments, he owed almost $1m in alimony and child support to his ex wife, was $70,000 behind on property taxes, and owed money to several businesses and associates throughout the country.
He filed for bankruptcy in 2012, claiming that he had lost everything to debt, including his Super Bowl and College Championship rings.
3. Deuce McAllister – Career Earnings: $70m
Deuce McAllister made $70m in his playing career, but he filed for bankruptcy 11 months after he left the NFL.
His problems started almost immediately after leaving the league, when he invested in a Nissan dealership. The dealership drove him into the ground. Things got so bad that his Louisiana home was auctioned off by the local sheriff.
2. Terrell Owens – Career Earnings: $80m
Terrell Owens, once king of the OTT touchdown celebration, is now penniless following a string of bad investments, poor financial management, the housing market crash and a stack of owed alimony, child support and back taxes.
T.O. somehow lost $80m, and not even his failed attempts at reality TV are gonna bring it back.
1. Michael Vick – Career Earnings: $130m
Vick’s amassed wealth was decimated by the discovery of his active involvement in funding and sustaining a dog fighting ring. When it came out that he had personally bankrolled the ring, he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.
During his trial it was revealed that on top of his involvement with dog fighting, he had also spent $18m in one year, supporting a close circle of friends and his wider entourage. The rest of his fortune was eaten up in legal fees and fines, and in 2008, he filed for bankruptcy, citing a debt of $50m and outstanding loan amounts upwards of $2m.
Vick’s actions were despicable, but he was lucky enough to get a second chance – eventually securing a 6 year, $100m contract with The Eagles following his release – getting himself out of the bankruptcy ditch.