Everyone’s heard hundreds of stories about professional athletes going broke. They spend as if money grows on trees. And, they trust far too many friends, managers and agents. Many eventually steal or betray them behind their backs and suck them dry.
Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly wrote this interesting, tongue-in-cheek post highlighting many more sad realities on this topic. One startling and sobering statistic got my attention, though. Over 60 percent of NBA players go broke within five years of retirement. Wow.
The first question that runs through my mind is… why won’t they ever learn? The stories are always in the news. So, how many rags to riches to rags examples do these stars need to see or read about before they actually change their behavior? Then it occurred to me that one’s behavior can only change if that person understands he is doing something wrong/harmful and then is taught how to do it better (or not at all). Understanding that point, I wonder if the NBA needs to step up here and take more of a leadership role with its players. While the league has no legal responsibility to make sure its employees don’t throw away their lives, I think an ethical example still needs to be set.
I did a little research on the NBA. This league does some great work helping kids become more educated about staying in school and away from drugs. And, it also plays a pivotal role helping players with various maturity and emotional issues they inevitably encounter as they jump from high school or college into a celebrity life in the NBA. But, I’ve yet to find any literature, information or media coverage about how the league helps on the financial literacy front. That’s really a shame.
The image of this league has consistently fallen over the last decade or so for a variety of reasons. Attendance at games and viewership has also greatly waned as the fan base demographics are now limited to more inner city, lower income consumers (versus a healthy mix of middle class and more affluent fans as well.) It’s clear that this fan base still admires these talented basketball players and views them as bona fide heroes because of what they can do on the basketball court and the image they personify. Here’s food for thought: If the NBA actually took a position by teaching its players how to save the millions of $$$ they earn, then just maybe this new found personal financial responsibility would be emulated by the fans and spill over to a part of our society that really needs this help the most.