Thursday, January 23, 2014

Athletes & The Money They Blow

Former NFL QB Vince Young filed for bankruptcy this week. He joins a long list of players who have had problems hanging on to their money.

Young grossed $45 million during his NFL career. That's a lot of pennies. As per the Court filing, he now has about $100,000 in assets and between $1 million and $10 million in liabilities. This talented QB had the physical tools to be successful but his issue was between the ears. Now those ears are a lot more poor.

Young isn't alone. According to a few reports, 78% of NFL players are either bankrupt or in financial trouble within 2 years of retirement. For the NBA, it's 60% of players that are bankrupt within 5 years of leaving the sport.

We should remember, though, that not all players make Manning coin and nor do they play for a decade. According to some (not all agree with these numbers), the average career length for a player is as follows:

NBA = 4.8 years
MLB = 5.6 years
NFL = 3.5 years

So players obviously have finite careers and finite earning potential - but some more finite than others. 

On top of that, income can be limited for some. While a guy like Brees makes $70 billion dollars or so, the minimum salary in the NFL $405,000 and a second year player gets $480,000. After taxes, these guys aren't exactly flush with cash.

The median NFL salary is about $800,000 (not to be confused with the $2 million average salary which is a less accurate reflection of where players stand given some of the really loaded contracts).

The reasons players blow their money are complex and varied: disadvantaged background and low socioeconomic status;  terrible investment advice and parasites out to defraud them; short careers; overspending; divorce/child custody payments (Travis Henry has 9 kids with 9 different mommies); legal fees because he killed two people and then drove his white car on the highway engaging in a high speed chase. 

Some or all of these factors can conspire to separate a player from his fortune. 

Below is a list I've compiled from around the web of players who have blown it all (or most of it). Their names are followed by their approximate gross (in millions):

Mike Tyson - $400M
Evander Holyfield - $250M
Allen Iverson - $200M
Michael Vick - $130M
Scotty Pippen - $120M
Antoine Walker - $110M
Curt Schilling - $105M (not clear how much he lost but at least $50M)
Latrell Sprewell - $96M                          
Vin Baker - $93M
Derrick Coleman - $90M
Terrell Owens - $80M
Deuce McAllister - $70 M
Warren Sapp - $60M
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario - $60M
Marion Jones - $50M
Mark Brunell - $50M
Lawrence Taylor - $50M
Tony Gwynn $50M
Jamal Lewis - $40M
Tiki Barber - $35M
Lenny Dysktra - $25M
OJ Simpson - $20M
Travis Henry - $20M
Muhsin Muhammad - $20M
Bernie Kosar - $20M
Jack Clark - $20M
Rocket Ismael - $20M
Bryan Trotier - $8M
Dorothy Hamill - $2M

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Subban & Race: Some of Your Responses

My article on Subban's reception having nothing to do with race (a frame down) has generated lots of responses from people. Here are a few:


Totally agree.   He comes across as arrogant and self-centered.  He wants the spotlight to be on PK.  Where I come from in Southern Ontario, athletes like that get booed. Do leaf fans boo Daniel Alfredsson because he was born in Sweden? Of course not.


Extremely well-written and argued.  I admit I am among those who suspect that race is a factor with Subban, and although I am not entirely persuaded,  you make a very strong case.  

I agree that people boo Subban because they perceive him as arrogant. Iginla, Simmonds, Jones are not regularly booed the way Subban is, as far as I know.  And a post-racial world would be one in which we are free to boo players because we perceive them as arrogant, and not feel awkward doing so because they are black. And maybe that is where we are with Subban.  

But...  It's a loaded issue. It's loaded because there is so much history of white people taking major exception to black people they perceive as uppity or arrogant.  Just like women who display confidence are portrayed as bitchy.  There are double standards.  

Would people boo Subban if he where white and acted how he does on the ice?  Honestly, there is an argument that they would. But my sense is maybe not.  Maybe he would be treated as a talented phenom. It's really hard to know.  My sense -- and it's only a sense -- is that some of the boos or some of the volume is due to the fact that he is black, and a lingering discomfort that people unconsciously have with a black person not knowing their place. 


I agree that booing Subban is not racially motivated at all. In fact, I would go as far to say that the booing is almost somewhat of a compliment to him. He's a good player; very good player and one of the best defenseman in the NHL today. You boo him because there is that sense that you might "throw him off his game" or whatever. And he draws a lot more attention because he is arrogant. If Erik Karlsson did what Subban to the Ottawa fans in Montreal or Toronto, he would be booed loudly. Remember Alfredsson's mocking of Sundin? Ottawa fans loved it. Toronto fans never ever forgave him for it and he's good and in professional sports, that will cause fans to boo you. And I am sure that after last year's playoff beat down, it felt good for Montreal fans to see Subban do it too.

If PK had come into the league and had automatically been booed, I could see an argument being made for it being race motivated. But that wasn't the case. And after a few years of the triple high five, along with a few other antics, people have started to boo him. If he wasn't this good, people probably wouldn't boo him. He's a guy you hate playing against but you would love him on your team. In a way he's like Milan Lucic or Chris Neil; would love them on my team, would hate playing them. But Lucic or Neil do not possess anything like the skill Subban has and they are not dirty players, so they do not get booed. Maybe a better comparison even in my mind is Crosby. Frankly, I hate the guy- he's somewhat arrogant, complains a lot and makes excuses every time things don't go his way. But as soon as him or Subban put on the Team Canada jersey next month, I will be in love with them both cause they have so much to offer to the team.

Sadly, I think there will always be some crazy individuals who are racist and will boo or dislike Subban simply because of the color of his skin. Look at what some crazy individual did to Wayne Simmons a few years ago at a pre-season game. It's really sad, stupid and unnecessary.

As for Subban I don't think it is racially motivated at all.


I thought it was a frank, honest look at a sensitive subject...Your column was spot on and pitch perfect and this isn't the kind of thing that's going to go away anytime soon.


Race in hockey is an issue, as you pointed out, because there are so few non-white players.  Only biathlon is more racially homogenous.  This isn’t going to change for a long time primarily for economic reasons.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more WASP bunch of people than in a minor hockey rink for morning practice.  The reality of youth sports really comes down to cost.  Whether you’re a new Canadian or not, hockey is darn expensive. Basketball and soccer not so much. If you’ve got several kids (boys and girls) you’ve got to make economic choices.  Soccer and basketball are just more affordable and also much more girl friendly too.  


I just read your thoughtful piece on what you believe to be a lack of racism regarding the response to P.K., for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect and affection. I've also been quite frankly incredibly outraged at what I absolutely perceived to be some degree of racism where PK is concerned. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Subban: It’s Not About Race

We’ve been hearing it for years now: Pernell Karl Subban is booed by fans and singled out by NHL hockey players because he’s black.

Some people apparently aren't even aware that race is the reason they react to Subban the way they do - they are engaged in an unconscious manifestation of racism. As the argument goes, we are living in a complex time complete with elaborate social economic pressures, inherent biases and uncontrollable prejudices. Subban bears the brunt of some of this.

Not buying it. Not by a long shot.

Subban is not being booed because he’s black. Subban is not being singled out because he’s black. Subban is a target because his personality rubs some people the wrong way. To declare that racism is the cause of this behavior is tedious, trite and convenient. It’s also a scathing indictment of  players and fans who rather innocuously express negative views about Subban uncomplicated by race. Finally, it also diminishes (albeit unintentionally) the substantial harm, anguish and brutality perpetrated on people of color over centuries.

Subban is a spectacular and gifted defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens. He’s a terrific skater, has a great shot, is physical, has great vision and clutch. In short, Subban is pretty special.

Going back to junior, however, Subban has not been warmly received. He’s come off as arrogant and cocky. Indeed, his own teammates, including some with the Habs, have expressed a common sentiment: Subban needs to show a bit more deference and humility.

Arrogance isn't restricted to one particular group. People across all races and ethnicities suffer from this affliction. It’s nothing more than a personality type and to suggest otherwise is very ironically lumping people who share a physical trait into one group.

A casual glance at the North American sports landscape past and present reveals that many African-Americans have been warmly received by fans: Calvin Johnson, Russell Wilson, David Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kirby Puckett, Tony Gwynn, Julius Erving, Ken Griffey Jr., Reggie White, Barry Sanders, Magic Johnson and Roberto Clemente  Frankly, the list is endless.

Were these NHL players booed because of the color of their skin: Anson Carter, Grant Furhr, Mike Grier, Dustin Byfuglien, Jarome Iginla, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart and George Laraque?

Similarly, there are lots of white players that have been regularly booed in opposing rinks and chirped by opposing players. Dion Phaneuf, Sidney Crosby, Zdeno Chara, Alex Ovechkin, Claude Lemieux, Sean Avery, Matt Cooke and Max Lapierre come to mind.

So whether a player is white, black or orange, what seems to matter is how they carry themselves on and off the ice. And of course, it also matters how much damage they inflict on other teams. Skin color, however, as a key catalyst for hate in this particular circumstance seems awkwardly misplaced.

So why are Subban and race so intertwined? While black players in the NFL and NBA are commonplace, they only make up a very modest segment of the NHL player population. Think about it – how often do we hear the charge that an NFL player is being booed because he’s black?

And yes, Simmonds had a banana thrown at him. A banana being thrown at player, however, is a singular discreet event and to infer that certain fans are racist as a result is highly disputable if not flawed reasoning.

So perhaps, compared to the other 3 sports, hockey is less experienced with players of color. As a result, we end up seeing some things over-analysed.

There are of course going to be people that will not only boo Subban because they don’t care for his personality, but ALSO because he’s black. And some may boo him because he’s black. In those instances, it’s racist. But this isn't one of those instances.

Hockey is a funny sport. It’s a bit like the military. Individualism is not embraced nor encouraged. While the NFL does seek a certain level of uniformity among its players, they can still dance after a TD or celebrate a first down. Imagine if an NHL player danced after scoring a goal or did the moonwalk after icing was waived off?  We would hear stuff like “that is way over the top”, “there isn't a place in the game for that” and “the moonwalk is just inappropriate”.

NHL Players are directed to fall in line; to blend in. Subban doesn't do either. What Subban does do is entertain with a refreshing blend of flair and skill. Sports is theater and athletes are entertainers.

For some (present company included) Subban isn't arrogant; he’s confident. While ego may make some uncomfortable, it’s also an important feature of successful players.

So here’s hoping Subban never changes.