Within two years of retirement, seventy-eight percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
A 2011 study by Wake Forest University reports that ten-year pro basketball veteran Ray Williams was an 1977 NBA top-10 draft pick, led the team in scoring over his first four years, once scoring fifty-two points, and later signed a three-year $1.5 million contract. From the study:
Seven years after his retirement and following several failed financial and employment efforts, Williams filed for bankruptcy. After filing for bankruptcy protection a second time in 1994, he is reportedly homeless, sleeping in a 1992 Buick.
The quotes referenced by this portion of the study are from a 2010 Boston Globe article.
He “rests his head on a pillow of tattered towels . . . tunes his boom box to gospel music, closes his eyes, and wonders.”
He is now fifty-five years old, a diabetic and unemployed. He has not “fallen prey to drugs, alcohol, or gambling,” but rather a lack of financial wherewithal and training. He retired in 1987 without a college degree or professional skills. He was a substitute teacher, delivered mail, and tended bar; he had been a cleaner, handyman, high school girls basketball coach, bakery worker, and golf course groundskeeper. But Williams “had trouble holding the jobs partly because he had spent his life training for little else but playing basketball. If he had established a foundation during his decade-long NBA career, perhaps he would have evolved, become involved in ventures with other business persons and nonprofits to build elderly housing units, or counseled low-income youth. Then he may have had a landing spot and a future career off the court.
This Friday ProSquared will hold a Sports and Business Luncheon at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee entitled, “The New Age Athlete: Creating Wealth, Building Community.” ProSquared aims to help athletes succeed personally as well as identify appropriate roles in community economic empowerment and youth development.
Former Green Bay Packer Na’il Diggs and former UW-Madison basketball star Michael Flowers will speak about “Sudden Wealth Syndrome” and how their personal experiences might help shape the financial future of current and future athletes — as well as their communities.
Michael Flowers was part of Wisconsin Badgers teams that earned their first ever No. 1 national ranking in 2007, won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships in 2008, and earned All-Big Ten Team honors in 2007 and 2008.
Na’il Diggs played in the NFL for 12 years after he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round in 2000.
Diggs wrote about his financial troubles in a 2016 column:
Those who watch the NFL know — and people who don’t probably do, too — that the league is largely made up of young African American men who come from socioeconomic backgrounds that predispose them to certain habits and influences…it is without question that those behaviors are, more often than not, detrimental to a young person’s fiscal well-being.
The problem is not limited to only black players in the NFL, of course — or athletes of any race or background. Young people today simply are not taught — at any level of education — the basic fundamentals (of) personal finance.
You can read Diggs’ column here.