Fame, success, travel and money are just some of the perks that come with being a professional athlete, but behind all the packed stadiums and screaming fans lies a harsh reality. Many athletes are at high risk of going bankrupt. CCTV America’s Shraysi Tandon reported the story from New York.
Antoine Walker is a former basketball player and a three-time NBA All-Star. Over the course of his 12-year career, Walker made $110 million, more than four times the average player in the league. All that wealth, though, didn’t stop the basketball champion from going broke.
Top-earning professional athletes go bankrupt from poor investmentsFame, success, travel and money are just some of the perks that come with being a professional athlete, but behind all the packed stadiums and screaming fans lies a harsh reality. Many athletes are at high risk of going bankrupt. CCTV America's Shraysi Tandon reported the story from New York.
“When you get in the NBA, you create a lifestyle for yourself. I lived a very expensive lifestyle,” Walker said. “I had a car fetish, I bought a lot of expensive cars, luxury cars. I love watches and had 17, 18 very expensive watches. A lot were custom-made. Also I like to shop a lot. A lot of designer suits, custom suits. And then just taking care of a lot of people.”
In addition to spending big, Walker also spent badly; snapping up 146 properties across Chicago just a few years before the global financial crisis. When the housing crisis struck in 2008, Walker lost almost everything. Two years later, he filed for bankruptcy, and lost millions.
“You never think about not having money when you make that type of money. It’s something that never crosses your mind,” Walker said.
Walker’s story is a familiar one in the sporting industry. Boxing legend Mike Tyson made and lost $400 million during his career. Tyson’s boxing rival Evander Holyfield, who earned more than $560 million, also filed for bankruptcy. Soccer player Diego Maradona, NFL’s Johnny Unitas and NBA player Allen Iverson all have declared bankruptcy.
Over-spending and failure to plan are key factors. Experts have said professional athletes also lack financial knowledge.
“There was one case of a baseball player who got a million dollar signing bonus and 6-7 months down the road, the team realized, the front office, that their accounting didn’t quite match up because this check hadn’t been cashed. So they called the player and asked what he did with the $1 million check – ‘did you cash it ‘ And he said ‘oh, no, I framed it,’ ” Billy Corben, documentary film director of ‘Broke’ shared.
The athlete had no idea he had to go out and cash the check.
“They said listen ‘We’ll send you a copy if you’d like to frame it and memorialize it, but you have to cash that check,” Corben said. “This is unfortunately the mentality that a lot of these sudden, overnight, multi-millionaires are dealing with.”
According to Sports Illustrated, two years after retiring, more than 75 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or in financial stress. NBA players face a similar fate. Five years after retirement, 60 percent of the players are broke.
Walker had some words of advise to give professional athletes to avoid a similar fate to his own.
“Using the word ‘no.’ Not taking care of so many people. Be a lot smarter while investing. I wouldn’t have invested while I was playing basketball, I would’ve waited till my career was over so I could really watch the money, be on top of it, where I could really educate myself,” Walker said. “I think when you’re playing and playing ball 9-10 months out of the year, that’s what your focus should be on. We retire at very young ages. I’m 38 years old. A lot of guys don’t make it till 35 in the NBA. So you’re going to retire early, and you’ll have plenty of time to invest your money and become a businessman.”
Most professional athletes only have about six to eight years that are considered the peak earning years during their careers. Experts agree it’s crucial for athletes to be prudent with their money today so they can secure an income for tomorrow.
New mouth guards, helmets help athletes play it safe
Two Seattle-based startups are trying to make American football safer with equipment to protect against head injuries. CCTV America’s Chris Casquejo reported the story from Seattle.
New mouth guards, helmets help athletes play it safeTwo Seattle-based startups are trying to make American football safer with equipment to protect against head injuries. CCTV America's Chris Casquejo reported the story from Seattle.
A Seattle-area company has designed a “smart” mouthguard to help prevent fatal head injuries in American football, a sport that celebrates violent contact. In October, a high school football player in the state of New York died after colliding with an opponent.
i1Biometrics believes measuring head trauma through its Vector mouthguard will make the game safer.
“So think of it like a smartphone in your mouth. It has many of the same components: accelerometers, gyroscopes, microprocessors. Those types of things are in the mouthguard itself,” Jesse Harper, president and CEO of i1Biometrics said.
It relays information to a receiver and a computer downloads information in real-time. The mouthguard measures how hard a player got hit and shows where the blow landed. Athletic trainers looking at the data on the sidelines can then decide whether to take a player out of a game.
“You want to insert a medical opinion as close to the time of injury as possible,” Harper said. “You don’t want to miss hits. You want to know the magnitude of those hits. And you can’t see everything on the sidelines and on the field of play.”
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons said up to 85 percent of traumatic brain injuries are preventable with proper use of helmets. Meanwhile in 2013, eight U.S. high school football players died from head or neck injuries.
Another start-up based at the University of Washington is working on making safer helmets. The company’s chief medical officer and pediatric neurosurgeon says most concussions in helmeted sports happen from so-called glancing blows, where the head is turned sideways after the hit, rather than direct head-on hits.
The VICIS helmet looks like conventional helmets, but its designers believe it’ll provide better protection against concussions.
“We have a pretty lofty goal for this helmet, which is to reduce the risk of concussion by 50 percent. Time will tell if we’re going to get there,” Sam Browd, chief medical officer of VICIS said. “We’re certainly very optimistic that the helmet is going to reach that goal at the end of the day.
VICIS would not say when it will start selling the helmet or how much it will cost, but the company recently received $500,000 in backing from the National Football League.
If the Vector mouthguard saves lives in American football, iBiometrics argues it could help prevent head injuries in basketball and regular football.