It’s hard to sympathize with Terrell Owens about his current financial difficulties. He earned nearly $80 million during his 15 year NFL career, so it’s hard to imagine him being unable to afford the $44,600 monthly payments to care for his four children. But Owens is far from the only big name NFL player to recently find himself in financial peril, as retired defensive tackle Warren Sapp filed for bankruptcy just this spring. In fact, Sports Illustrated reported that 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or under financial stress just two years after retirement.
The NFL recognizes financial mismanagement to be a major issue for its players and has developed programs to equip players with the tools and resources to better manage their earnings. Our beloved Redskins developed its own in-house seminars to teach its players basic financial management and how to avoid common pitfalls. The team even has former Head Coach Joe Gibbs speak at these seminars drawing on his own experience with players coming to him in financial distress.
Upon signing their first contracts, many players are charged with managing more money than they ever imagined and by no means should the NFL adopt a paternalistic mindset about what players should do with their money. So, what can players do to avoid the financial maladies of so many before them? Two things: get a legitimate and intimate side hustle and learn how to use money to make more money. Several current Redskins have adopted these practices successfully in quite unique fashion.
What constitutes a legitimate and intimate side hustle? Any legal (no, Sam Hurd-like enterprises please!) profit-generating enterprise about which a person is passionate enough to truly get his hands dirty and learn the business inside and out. Redskins tight end Chris Cooley took the “getting his hands dirty” aspect literally when he started throwing pottery that is sold in his Leesburg-based art gallery. He’s been a lifelong artist and has turned his passion into a profitable vocation. From his work at The Cooley Gallery, he has made connections that will prove invaluable in helping him to accomplish his ultimate dream of becoming an art instructor after he retires from the NFL. He probably won’t ever make NFL money being an artist, but no one can doubt that his side hustle and his passion are aligned for future success.
The side hustle is necessary, but having the knowledge about how to develop, execute, and manage a side hustle successfully is equally, if not more, important. Under the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the league will reimburse players up to $15,000 in 2012 for educational expenses at an accredited college or university, and some current Redskins are taking advantage of it.
Players interested in starting, owning, or managing a business can apply to participate in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program. If accepted, players attend a weeklong program at one of the best business schools in the United States. In March and early April, center Will Montgomery enrolled in a Harvard Business School program focused on developing business plans for large-scale investments such as real estate and retail. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and cornerback Josh Wilson focused on entrepreneurship and creating and financing new ventures at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management later in the spring. Alexander will be able to apply his newfound knowledge immediately. In 2011, he entered into his own legitimate and intimate side hustle with Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston. They co-own The Studio, a pilates studio that has expanded to offer TRX training and dance instruction.
While the NFL largely markets its program to assist players with their post-NFL life, more and more Redskins have realized the current benefits of attending one of these programs. They provide a general understanding of financial management principles and investment strategies as well as introduce participants to networks and investment opportunities beyond those available to many NFL players. The sooner players can apply such tools to their football earnings, the better developed, executed, and managed their legitimate and intimate side hustles can be for them in the present and into the future.