The draft is becoming almost as big a deal as the Super Bowl. In fact the draft isn’t even here yet and already the hype machine is spinning at full speed, possibly hoping to detract from the New York Times coverage of the NFL’s concussion Easter egg hunt and critique of concussion research intended to minimize the problem of CTE. Long story short, the league has demanded that the New York Times retract the article.
This is in the same week that Kevin Turner died at age 46 – ostensibly of atrophic lateral sclerosis – and Husain Abdullah retired after a history of five concussions in his seven years as a safety with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings. More than ever a rookie’s earnings over the course of a shortened career may need to stretch not only to cover their post-football careers, but to cover future medical care for CTE related syndromes such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.
When you’re young is easy to think that things are never going to happen to you, especially when you are in the golden years of health and career. Extravagant food and drink, epic dinner parties at which veterans down bottles of champagne and receive Rolexes from younger players, and taking care of family near and far can drastically eat into a player’s earnings. Remember that $3.8 million a year is pretax income. Young players desperately need to be surrounded by ethical and prudent elders during a very vulnerable time. They not only need financial planners, accountants, attorneys, managers, and others who will have their best interests at heart, but they also need to attain financial literacy for themselves and their own good.
It is heartening to see the financial world recognizing this need and to see Morgan Stanley step up to the plate. Drew Hawkins of the Global Sports and Entertainment Division has teamed up with senior athletes who can reach younger athletes on a level that Wall Street suits and any amount of finger waving cannot. Senior athletes connect with younger players and put a 55-year-old face in front of young men barely out of their teens. They often share a background of poverty and hard work, sports scholarships and a career track to the pros. What they don’t want these young men to share is bankruptcy and a return to poverty and even to homelessness.
The solution is not just to get these young men to stop spending, or for older players to stop pressuring them. It is to get them educated to the point where their BS filter is highly attuned and they have the ability to say no. Yes, they deserve the luxuries that have come with their hard work, but they also need to prepare for the future, and to avoid becoming just another number in the 80 percent of NFL players who file for bankruptcy within five years of retirement.
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