Professional football players are some of the highest-paid athletes in the United States. Yet just having an abundance of income does not equal having an abundance of good financial sense. For many of the top players, earning several million dollars a season is the norm. However, these same young men have a habit of declaring bankruptcy a few years later. Why are so many professional athletes in debt and why is this normal behavior for players in the National Football League?
Double Foul: The Statistics of Bankruptcy
One of the main reasons for all bankruptcies, whether the person is a well-paid athlete or an average American making less than $50,000 per year, comes down to how the individual handled their financial situation. Bad investments, supporting an entourage or simply spending more money than is coming in all lead to financial ruin is left unchecked.
That said, the statistics surrounding bankruptcy for pro athletes, particularly football players, are different from the average American. For starters, the average career of a pro football player is approximately three years. Not only is this shorter than other athletes, mainly due to the stress that the game puts on the player’s body, the short time frame does not provide the time needed to learn how to properly manage a large income.
The average NFL player earns $1.9 million per a year. That breaks down to an average of more than $35,000 per game. However, 65 percent of NFL players leave the game due to career-ending injuries. Another 320 veteran players lose their jobs every year due to poor performance or other issues. Worse yet, even though these men make an average of $5.5 million over the course of their careers, after a scant two years after retirement, 78 percent of all football players declare bankruptcy.
Touchdown! A Roster of Bankrupt Players
Who are some of the players who had this happen? Some of the most famous bankrupt players in the NFL might not be who you would expect. The following is a list of the top 8 bankrupt players and the reasons behind their financial woes:
Johnny Unitas – He won one championship and earned $4 million. He declared bankruptcy in 1991 due to a bad business decision.
Deuce McAllister – He didn’t win any championships, but earned $70 million. Declared bankruptcy in 2010 on account of bad business.
Dermontti Dawson – Didn’t win any championships, but earned $55 million. Declared bankruptcy in 2010 due to failed real estate ventures.
Michael Vick – Didn’t win any championships, but earned $130 million. Declared bankruptcy in 2008 due to legal trouble.
Lawrence Taylor – Didn’t win any championships, but earned $50 million. Declared bankruptcy in 1998 due to drug abuse and tax evasion.
Mark Brunell – Didn’t win any championships but earned $13 million. Declared bankruptcy in 2008 due to a series of bad loans.
Travis Henry – Didn’t win any championships, but earned $20 million. Declared bankruptcy back in 2009 because of a multitude of legal issues.
Charlie Batch – Didn’t win any championships, but earned $13 million. Declared bankruptcy in 2010 on account of bad real estate ventures.
NFL Players Versus the Average American
What happened to these millions of dollars? To put it in perspective, take a look at how the lifestyles of NFL players stack up with the spending habits of the average Joe.
The median home value of a NFL player is $800,000 or eight times the median home value in America. NFL players average $1.9 million salary every year, while most Americans make closer to $50,000. When it comes to vacations, the average NFL player spends about $10,000 while most of America spends closer to $500. NFL vacations can last a lot longer – as much as six months unpaid. Most people in America get two weeks paid vacation.
In summary, NFL players may make more, but they also spend more. Perhaps in addition to spring training, NFL players should take a few courses in money management as well!