Athletes never cease to amaze us with incredible feats on the field. No matter the sport, every year seems to bring new heights of physicality, whether leaping over a fence to take a home run away, slamming a running back to the ground or making an impossible move on the pitch to score a goal.
But off the field, their exploits can be somewhat harder to believe. In 2011, ThinkAdvisor looked at the Top 10 Financial Meltdowns by Athletes. That was only the tip of the iceberg. The list of athletes left bankrupt is seemingly endless.
And it isn’t just modern athletes like Antoine Walker (basketball). Athletes from other eras, like Denny McLain (baseball), also serve as cautionary tales.
If they’d had access, many of these players could have been helped by the recent efforts of the NFL Players Association, which ThinkAdvisor wrote about in June: Help for NFL Players Suddenly Rich or Suddenly Retired. The players union’s four-year-old partnership with Financial Finesse, the retirement and financial education provider, expanded their online program allowing current and former NFL players to get unbiased financial guidance by phone.
Unfortunately, many of these athletes are on their own or chose not to take anyone’s advice. Check out ThinkAdvisor’s look at 8 Big Financial Meltdowns by Athletes:
8. Denny McLain, baseball:
At least $4 million lost
Baseball’s last 30-game winner has faced nothing but losses off the field. Sure he played in the days before even the benchwarmers made millions, but he did take in $200,000 in 1969, split evenly between his salary from the Detroit Tigers and endorsements.
Suspended over gambling allegations in 1970, McLain filed for bankruptcy citing $400,000 in debts and $413 in assets. Strike One. By 1972, he was washed up. From there it was a roller-coaster ride: he wrote a book, ran a bar, sold TV sets, owned walk-in medical clinics, and then, in 1977, filed for bankruptcy, of which the details are hazy. Strike two. From there, McLain ended up spending 30 months in prison in a cocaine-trafficking and racketeering case before the conviction was tossed out for technical reasons. Strike three. Another rise, another a book and a $400,000 a year income at various jobs still left him seeking more. After buying a meatpacking firm in 1995, he was accused in the theft of $3 million from its pension fund. Strike four. After eight years in prison, starting in 1996, he was released. He has proclaimed his innocence ever since. We guess, he’s not quite out.
7. Dick “Night Train” Lane, football:
Estimated $5 million lost
A hard-hitting cornerback in the rough-and-tumble 1950s and ’60s NFL, “Night Train” Lane liked booze, drugs and women. He married the jazz singer Dinah Washington in 1963 — the year she died. After his career, most notably with the Detroit Lions, ended in 1965, Lane quickly used up all his cash. From then on, he lived on pension checks of $800 a month. He died in 2002 at age 74.
6. Marion Jones, track:
$7 million lost
Marion Jones was a trailblazer on the track, winning five medals (three gold) at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. But the trail she blazed off the track was all too familiar. First, it was the admission that she had used steroids. Then her medals were stripped. Then came financial ruin.
By 2007, The Los Angeles Times reported her total liquid assets were $2,000. During a war of lawsuits with her former trainer, Jones was asked where her money had gone. The Times quoted her as saying for legal bills and to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. To top off 2007, she pleaded guilty to a check-fraud scam and lying about using steroids, and was sentenced to six months in prison.