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Bankrupt Former NFL Players

May 13, 2015

While professional athletes such as NFL players might demonstrate their talents on the field, many struggle with even basic money-management skills. They have focused on improving prowess in their sport of choice and as a result, have little understanding of basic finances. Often times they poured money into family and friends during their heyday when it seemed the money would never end, only to get bit when it inevitably did. Warren Sapp and Vince Young are just two examples of players whose names were recently splashed across the headlines when they filed bankruptcy.

Sports Illustrated released data in 2009 that provided an estimate of how many NFL players face financial issues or even bankruptcy within two years of retirement. A staggering 78 percent of these professionals are struggling with joblessness or the breakup of their marriage.

However, the National Bureau of Economic Research released new data in April 2015 that challenges that figure, claiming instead that less than 2 percent of former football professionals filed bankruptcy within two years of retirement. The study used all 2,016 players who were drafted from 1996 to 2003. Twelve years after leaving the field, less than 16 percent, or about one in six, filed for bankruptcy.

The difference in the numbers was due to the inclusion of divorced and unemployed former NFL professionals in the statistics. Even if a player was doing well financially, they were lumped into the group. The NBER study, on the other hand, only counted Chapter 7 bankruptcies. In addition, the data only considers draft picks, which eliminated about 30 percent of all players in the league. If those individuals were added into the total, the percentage of bankruptcies would likely increase.

Even so, the more recent data shows that NFL players probably do file bankruptcy more frequently than other people in the same age range. In addition, a person who hasn’t filed Chapter 7 could still end up destitute, especially if they have little debt. Another consideration is that many former players invest in business or take other significant financial risks, with about half of these men suffering a serious loss as a result.

Various setbacks can lead a person to financial struggles, resulting in the need to file bankruptcy. Our bankruptcy attorney can review your case and provide counsel on your options.