Some of the NFL players we listed below will shock you. Some wont. But reading this will make you think long and hard before you go out and blow your money again on what appears to be a worthy investment. That new video game system? Maybe it’s better just to go outside and throw the football around. That fishing trip to Maui, flying first class, and staying in that five-star hotel? Maybe it’s best to wait a few years, and in the meantime, take a quick drive to the local watering hole.
This article will likely make you appreciate what you have because those who seem to have it all, in reality, often have nothing. At one point in time, you were looking at these star athletes with envy, jealous that you didn’t have their three Lincoln cars of three different colors sitting in front of a multi-million-dollar mansion. But now, many of them look at you, whose seemingly modest life appears both enjoyable and worlds away, with a type of unfamiliar reverence.
The question is, why do professional sports players fall into the rabbit hole? Sure, us common folk may understand the reasons behind player bankruptcy, but often players are oblivious to the concepts from the moment they receive their first pay check to the moment they declare ruin.
Here is the main reason: Often players feel the need and pressure to max out, which means they spend all of their money when they get it. It’s an umbrella concept that encompasses countless other reasons. For example, many players grow up poor, work hard, make it to the NFL, and get rich. It’s the American Dream; however, most don’t know how to manage that Dream, and their finances fall flat. Along with poorly investing their money, players often feel the pressure of spending. The New York Times cited former NFL offensive tackle Roman Oben as a prime example of a player who felt pressure to spend big when he didn’t want too. Players often teased Oben about his Toyota Land Cruiser with 68,000 miles on it.
And despite continued efforts by the NFL to educate players, the reasons NFL players go bankrupt is as long as the massive salaries they once owned.
20. Dick Lane, DE
In 1952, Dick “Night Train” Lane was an army veteran when he stepped into the offices of the Los Angeles Rams and asked for a tryout. He had little to show in terms of football experience, but a small scrap book which chronicled his football journey from high school to the Army. If only his outstanding speed, agility, and work ethic could have helped him navigate his way through difficult times off the field. Illegal substances, drinks, and bad investments eventually brought this future Hall of Fame defensive player down.
19. Raghib Ismail, WR
Not all might be lost with Ismail, which is why he’s higher on this list. Ismail, known as the “The Rocket” for his blazing speed and athleticism, racked up close to $18 million playing in the Canadian and National Football League. However, he lost much of that money when he invested in several poor business ventures, including a cosmetics procedure that supposedly helped the skin better intake oxygen, nationwide phone card dispensers, and tourist shops that sold calligraphy.
However, in 2009, he might have finally found his calling with a company called Bite Tech, which produces a mouth guard that is supposed to reduce head injuries by absorbing impact.
18. Luther Elliss, DT-DE
In 201,0 Luther Elliss, once known to rely on his teammates to protect him on the field, was turning to local churches and friends to protect him from debt after he retired. At the age of 36, the retired Elliss declared bankruptcy after a string of poor investments and hefty debt. He played nine years for the Lions and one year for the Broncos, and earned almost $11.6 million in playing-time salary. Only six years after his retirement, he and his wife filed for bankruptcy.
17. Archie Griffin, RB
Griffin isn’t the biggest name to top this list, but he’s still a name nonetheless who made headlines in the 1970s. Considered by many to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest college football player ever, he did little in the NFL and then even less outside of it. In seven seasons with the Bengals, Griffin totaled just over 2,808 yards rushing and scored only seven touchdowns. In 1982, he filed for bankruptcy because his shoe business failed.
16. Tiki Barber, RB
It’d be an understatement to say Barber fought his way into the NFL. When he was young, a doctor told Barber to never play competitive sports because the latter suffered from seizures and a lung ailment. But Barber overcame the odds, and made it to the pantheon of professional sports becoming the Giants number one running back. He later retired and began working on TV. However, the world he built crumbled when NBC fired Barber for violating a morality clause in his contract, as he tried. While employed, Barber left his wife, at the time pregnant, for a 23-year-old NBC intern, In 2011, he tried to play again in the NFL, but failed.
15. Warren Sapp, DT
Sapp listed $6.45 million in assets and $6.7 million in debt in April of 2012. How does a guy blow the millions of dollars he earned while playing for the Buccaneers and Raiders? More so, how does a Hall-of-Fame football star go bankrupt so soon after he finished his career? It could be the 240 pairs of sneakers stationed in his walk-in-closet or his $4.1 million 15,000 square-foot home furnished with lion-skinned rugs. What did the lions ever do to you Sapp? And we don’t mean the football team.
14. Andre Rison, WR
In 1995, Rison signed the most lucrative contract ever for a wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns. Totaling $17 million, Rison was a premier receiver making big-time money. And now, well, it’s gone. In 2007, a court ordered Rison to declare bankruptcy stemming from unpaid child support. In 2012, a court sentenced Rison to five years of probation, and ordered him to pay $300 in restitution for child support he failed to pay.
13. Chris McAlister, CB
Once a Pro-Bowl caliber player for the Baltimore Ravens, McAlister managed to wash away a reported $45 million in salary. To top it off, he also reportedly blew away $17.5 million in bonuses. McAlister, who played 11 years in the NFL, was a three-time Pro-Bowler and one-time First Team All-Pro. He is also a Super Bowl champion. It’s hard to believe the former Baltimore Raven had to once pay $11,000 a month in child support and had no idea where to get the money.
12. Mark Brunell, QB
Remember when Brunell led the newly instated expansion Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship game during their second season in the league. It’s rare a team with new management hits on their first quarterback. It’s even rarer when it happens to an expansion team. Brunell didn’t conquer worlds, but he more than created a respectable career. That is, until 2010, when he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after he claimed $25 million in debt. During his career he collected more than $50 million.
11. Johnny Unitas, QB
In 1991, Unitas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for failed loans provided to him and his partners in the failed purchase of the manufacturing company National Circuits Inc. The company printed circuit boards for telecommunications, computers and automotives. Interestingly enough, an investment team, which included Unitas, was interested in buying an NFL team in the early 1990s. Unitas’ name was tied to possibly purchasing a new franchise in Baltimore if the city was awarded a team. He was denied, and that team eventually became the Baltimore Ravens.
10. Lawrence Taylor, LB
Yes, that Lawrence Taylor. Considered by many to be the greatest defender to play professional football, Taylor struggled once he retired. While playing, he was tackling opponents quarterbacks as hard as he was tackling illegal substances. Rumors even suggested he’d send “ladies of the night” to his opponents rooms prior to games to tire them out. Taylor’s wild lifestyle and failed business ventures after he retired caused him to file for bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure on his house. In fact, one might wonder if he played just as hard off the field as he did on it.
9. Dan Marino, QB
Marino, the Dolphins’ most celebrated quarterback, holds a number of passing records, and is now a well-known football analyst. However, what many might not realize is how he’s recently struggled with money. Remember the company Digital Domain? Ok, well maybe not. But remember when that hologram of dead rapper Tupac Shakur was produced and shown at the Coachella celebration in 2012? Digital Domain produced that hologram, and Marino purchased $1,575,525 shares of the company soon after. Little knew that was all the company had to offer. Not long after Marino’s investment, the company declared bankruptcy, and brought his shares with it. Reports claim that he may have lost 14 million in total with this investment. While it may not be everything he had, like others on this list, it was still a substantial loss and one worth nothing.
8. Bernie Kosar, QB
I’m not sure who’s been in more dire straits the past twenty years, the Cleveland Browns’ franchise or their former king, Bernie Kosar. Since Kosar’s release in 1993, the Browns have managed only three winning seasons and a quick move to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Kosar made $19 million during his NFL career, but by the year 2009, he had a scary $44 in his checking account. He also had a negative balance in his Key Bank checking account, one sports possession (1987 MVP trophy), and $1,175 in monthly income. Kosar also owed a large amount of money to a lawn-mowing company, but we’ll leave that out. It’s just too embarrassing to continue on.
7. Deuce McAllister, RB
The former New Orleans Saint was great on the football field, but not so much in the car-dealership industry. In July 2011, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s office seized McAllister’s house because he owed $1.8 million on the mortgage. Whitney National Bank sued McAllister for the money he owed. In 2012, the former running back was also battling Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation because the latter believed McAllister’s dealership (Deuce McAllister Motors LLC) defaulted on payments and exceeded credit limits.
6. Travis Henry, RB
You wonder how someone with so much money can spend it so quickly. But then you delve deeper into their story, and it’s easy to see why. Henry was not only a journeyman Pro-Bowl player, but also had the itch to move from one woman to another. He has nine children with nine different mothers, and could not afford the insanely high $170,000 a year he owed in child support. He was jailed for falling $16,600 behind on payments.
5. Michael Vick, QB
At least financially, this guy has gone full circle. In 2007, Vick was found guilty of operating a dog-fighting operation and lost millions. He also went to jail for his criminal acts. Along with the $130 million he lost as part of a long-term deal he had signed with the Falcons prior to his arrest, Vick lost roughly $8 million a year from sponsorship deals with Nike and Coca-Cola. Recent times have been better on Vick. He is no longer bankrupt, but his public image will forever be far from complete.
4. Dermontti Dawson, C
I’m not sure what makes this story worse, the fact Dawson is a NFL Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman or the fact that he listed his “fake rolex,” “weight machines,” and a “mutt belonging to his daughter” as assets prior to filing for bankruptcy in 2010. In filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Dawson listed a reported $69 million in debts. There might be more popular names on this list, but come on man, $69 million?
3. Terrell Owens, WR
Owens’ on-field drama may not have been as bad as the drama he off the field. Between owing the IRS over $400,000 in back taxes, baby mamas $44,600 in child care support, and numerous other poor investments, Owens found himself broke by 2011. At that time, he declared his state of emergency to a judge. It’s shocking to learn that the possible to-be Hall-of-Fame receiver, who earned about $70 million over the course of his 11 year NFL career, was struggling to make his way through post-football life.
2. JaMarcus Russell, QB
Arguably the greatest bust in NFL history, Russell dealt with more hits off the field than he did from defensive lineman on it. In 2010, the Raiders broke ties with Russell, and two months later he was arrested for possessing a controlled substance, codeine syrup, which he did not have a prescription for. Russell said he is far from broke, but fell behind on his mortgage payments, and was forced to pay a lien to California for over $200 thousand in back taxes.
1. Ray Rice, RB
This is where the definition of “lost everything” really works its dark magic. We went back and forth about whether Rice should be lower on this list, or really, even on this list. After all, he still has money. It wasn’t that long ago he was suiting up for the Ravens hoping to make 2014 a comeback year.
But before he had that chance, he made one horrific decision the night of February 15th, 2014 that would change the landscape of both his and his wife’s life forever. Video of Rice dragging the body of his soon-to-be wife, Janay, out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino popped up on TMZ. Months later, TMZ would publish more footage of him roundhouse punching Janay in the head. She immediately dropped to the floor unconscious. The immediate aftermath was horrific, and both the Rice family and the NFL continue to pay dearly for it.
Not only did the Ravens release Rice, but he lost out on the remaining $10 million of his original five-year $35 million deal. Sure, he took home most of his contract’s worth, but this story goes beyond dollar signs. There is a certain human element involved , which had never hit a player or the NFL so hard before.
While $10 million is a nice chunk of change to lose, you also have to consider how he lost EA and Nike endorsements. The chance he receives future endorsements is also slim. Oh, and those future autograph appearances for being a Super Bowl winning running back? See ya later. More importantly, his reputation is shot and any attempt at recovery will likely be thwarted by the quick surfacing of his elevator brutality. Ray Rice truly lost it all.
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