Cory’s Corner: The NFL must address its broke retired players

The average NFL team is worth $1.43 billion and the league is knocking on the $10 billion revenue door.

The NFL is easily this country’s most revered sport. Every Sunday, Monday and now Thursday (begrudgingly) has become must-see TV. The playoffs are a smorgasbord for the senses and the Super Bowl continues to set ratings records.

But with so much money and power, players are still in the poor house. According to a study by The National Bureau of Economic Research, 1 in 6 NFL players go broke within 12 years of retirement.

Think about that. While commissioner Roger Goodell made more than $44 million — which is wildly absurd — battered and bruised NFL vets were filing for bankruptcy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Players that weren’t accustomed to receiving millions of dollars while they were playing likely won’t change when they retire. And it only gets worse when they hang up the jerseys because they have more free time to spend.

Bankruptcy filings were barely present while players were still in the NFL. But once they retired, the filings increased, “likely due to a combination of players rapidly drawing down limited savings and having leveraged investments.”

This is a big problem. Players nowadays have too many handlers and hangers-on that are on the payroll. Add multiple lavish homes that come with pricey taxes, and you have a cocktail that just cannot be swallowed.

First, players need to identify who their friends and family are. And even when those people are known, that doesn’t they mean they need to be given a financial life raft. Players have to realize that those people will still be your friends without being on the payroll. And if they don’t like hearing it, they never were true friends to begin with.

Next, are the over-the-top purchases. While it may seem posh to buy three multi-million dollar homes, it’s actually a never-ending money pit. Those places will have high five-figure tax amounts, which will cause a huge burden when the high-dollar income stops rolling in.

The NFL has been educating its rookies at its NFL Rookie Symposium since 1997. They’ve taught players the finer points of putting a condom on a banana to maintaining a checking account.

“As a young player, I thought (the symposium) was great, said former Packer and current Jaguars defensive end. “But the attitude of the player has to be right. Personally, the best way I have found to get through to a player is to show him that you genuinely care. You can’t fake it.”

But education is still missing the mark. In order to hit home with the 2015 rookies, the NFL should interview a portion of players that have filed for bankruptcy. And then show that at this year’s symposium. Let the newest crop — headlined by Mr. Questionable Decisionmaker Jameis Winston — learn from the mistakes of the past.

Because simple education isn’t getting the job done. Instead of being able to retire in a simple and relaxed environment, some players must worry about how they’re going to eat tomorrow.

The juxtaposition of so much poverty as compared to the excesses of violence, sex and beer you see every week is completely astonishing.


Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


28 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: The NFL must address its broke retired players

  1. I think the NFL should do as much as it can to educate its players about the dangers of thinking you’ve “made it” when you sign that first rookie minimum contract. But beyond that, it’s on the players.

    The article tilts towards an avoidance of personal fiscal responsibility. While most NFL players don’t have any financial responsibility taught to them at a young age, it can be taught as an adult. (I learned this during grad school)

    IMO people should be held responsible for their own actions. It’s not the owners fault that many players buy expensive cars/houses/vacations.

    Now, that said, it IS morally despicable that the contracts in the most violent sport in the world aren’t fully guaranteed for injury. But that’s another topic…

    1. I think you’d have a financial black hole if you tried to offer a pension plan for retired NFL players.

      Let’s say a player had to be in the NFL for 15 years to be eligible for a pension. If the player joined as a 21-year-old, they would retire at 36. That player might live for at least another 40-50 years. No investment plan could provide an adequate return for that long.

      Even if you limited the length or value of the payout, the former players would still hit a point at which they are no longer supported by the NFL. And I think we’d still be seeing the same problem.

      I agree with your statement that it’s on the players. Call me cold, but you can only go so far in helping those who aren’t truly focused on helping themselves.

      All of this said… I think we are reaching a point in the history of the NFL where players of old are reaching ages where medical care is of a greater necessity. However, those are the players who got paid much less, yet destroyed their bodies much more and didn’t have the advanced medical treatment players have today. It’s a much different story for them, and the NFL should be doing more on their behalf.

      1. I think you make good points – but what would be a “Financial black hole” for you and I and 99.5% of the general population (and companies), it would not be for the NFL. The average owner is worth over a BILLION dollars.

        I do think players should have to “pay” for their financial mistakes. But I do not think they should have to pay for their injuries later in life – especially those that didn’t know about CTE or concussions. Especially when the NFL covered up evidence pointing that direction from 1995-2004.

  2. NFL should go 50-50 on a good pension plan for ex-players, with disability provisions. Not to do so is nothing but greed by the owners. Sure pay Goodell $50MM/yr to look after your interests but not a penny for those who made the game what it is today. Shameful.

    1. Archie,
      Nowhere in your response did you put any sort of blame on the players, the prime reason they file bankruptcy. Besides having a half dozen or more financially unsupported children, they have been coddled since the day the first picked up a football. They have been in the limelight and catered to by restaurants, sporting events, and so many other complimentary givings. It is not the fault of the financial planners, the family and friends and others involved in the players lives. I am self employed and fund my own retirement account. I am not “given” a pension plan. Goodell has nothing to do with players bankruptcies.

  3. This is one of many issues that the NFL needs to deal with. First more needs to be done for the players from the pre-free agency era. Most of those players did not get the chance to make the kind of money that players began to make during the 1990s. A fund should be established to support the older players who made this league into what it is today. The older players should be able to receive health and medical benefits and if they sufficiently demonstrate financial need, a pension plan should be set up to support them financially. As for the players of the free agency era they should continue to receive their medical benefits after they retire from the league, especially if a serious injury forced them to retire prematurely. As for financial assistance the league should provide on going programs to assist the players during and after their careers with financial management. The league and the teams have the funds, it is just a matter of greed that they do not support the players who have filled their stadiums and helped to make all of them rich. At the least a reasonable pension plan and medical benefits should be available for all retired players. As for Goodell, his salary is ridiculous. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Since ’61, agreed. Coincidentally I spoke with Don Horn today (Packers QB 1967-1970). It was regarding the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute since I have a bad back. He might be getting paid some amount to recruit for them, but swears by their bone marrow stem cell procedure that was used for his two bad knees, bad hip and bad shoulder. It was a good conversation and he seemed very genuine in his concern.

      Where I’m going with this relates to your comment about medical benefits for former NFL players. Don mentioned that one of his missions is to gather enough data to get the stem cell treatment added to NFL players’ medical benefits. He mentioned at the Super Bowl II team reunion that Jerry Kramer had a stem cell treatment done for either knee/hip (I can’t recall now) 6 months prior to the reunion, but said that Kramer was thrilled with the results. He said many former Packers players complained about chronic pain as the result of their playing days.

      Like you said, these are the guys who laid the foundation. Some might argue, “they knew the risk.” Not necessarily, especially with the medical data we have now. Plus, technology has evolved.

      1. Rossonero – I agree. My primary focus on this issue is for the older players. They did not make the type of money that any of today’s make. I think that it is safe to say that the highest paid players from the 60s and 70s never made as much as today’s minimum NFL player salary. But more importantly, they didn’t have access to the medical care that is available today. The diagnostics were not as good. In the 60s MRIs and CAT scans did not exist, only X-rays. Who knows how many players continued playing with undiagnosed concussions? The idea of chronic pain and injury post-career was not considered or the means to alleviate it. I am not in favor of players getting a free ride after their careers, especially the more recent highly paid free agents, but I am saying that a level of support (at least healthcare) should be available to players who have a legitimate need for it. If for nothing else, than to provide as you say a reasonable quality of life. Thanks, Since ’61

  4. Your average NFL thug is too ignorant to know that the well will eventually run dry. Hell they are arrogant enough to believe they can get away with murder, literally… You pay someone $100 million+ over their career and they end up in financial trouble – too effing bad. You are a thug and you need to learn this phrase, “welcome to McDonald’s may I take your order” Pension my ass, they should be giving back to the community that supported your thug ass.

        1. LOL. Delude yourself however you like, idiot. One way or the other, you are a punchline.

          1. troll much marpag? you should come up out of your mamma’s basement, it is really nice outside. the short bus will be waiting for u

            1. ….aaaaaand there’s the punchline. It’s all still a big joke, of course, but at least your comedic timing is improving.

              1. Life is what you make of it, marpag… So go out and make one. It’s not as scary as you think. Get upstairs and go for it big boy.

  5. “… that doesn’t mean they need to be given a financial life raft.”

    This article is tailor made for a Colin Cowherd…”That’s a YOU problem”.Whether the NFL offers advice during the symposiums for rookies or not,everyone of these players know they will make money,some more and much more than others but still more than they likely would make outside the gridiron.

    The excuses of them being young etc, and the NFL needs to protect them from themselves is utter nonsense,as even if coming from impoverished surroundings or not,though it appears the template is used much more often,they find a way to get to college and still forsake learning.They gravitate to knowing of where the money is and are readily accepting of the media recognition of how they flaunt it via purchases of various items and favors,and yet want blame placed on their employers for their falls however it’s comes about,regardless of when in life.

    I tire of having to be told how much teams are worth and Goodell earns,since the players or at least the large majority come away with earnings in the millions and those that don’t still got their chance to do so but couldn’t because of the more likely reason of ability.Goodell does his job that the Owners pay him to do,personal feeling range about him,nonetheless,as like any huge corporation,someone gets paid big money to make their employers more money…welcome to America and the Capitalism that makes it what it is today.

    It seems as though articles like these in round about ways,attempt to make it appear that all these young men entering the NFL are nothing more than dumb rubes of yore that dwell deep in the valleys and mountains with knowledge of life limited to the newspaper that may have been blown across their path 6 years after publication.

    With instant media literally at ones fingers and regardless of where one lives in regard to neighborhoods ,rich or poor,ignorance is no longer an accepted excuse for decisions made while making big money or where it went years and tears after being able to make it.We all witness the downfalls of rich and famous and for those that aspire to be like them or have same, willingly copy and paste the same path to the end of their means…there is no sympathy here for decisions made with clear intent and knowledge.

    While not forgetting about those who have laid claim to the CTE avenue,the majority of players still to this day state,they would still lie about concussion symptoms to remain in the game..knowing the dangers of the game and the risks..a clear intent of knowledge.

    The NFL should be held to do more for those who suffered in the earlier days and it’s a shame it doesn’t but that has no claim of blame for those that go bankrupt because of simple and pure stupidity or self imposed ignorance.

    The use of Warren Sapp is pathetic as defense to your article and claim but adheres to my last paragraph. 🙂

  6. ” 1 in 6 NFL players go broke within 12 years of retirement.”

    I think it’s clear after studying Barack Obama’s economic philosophies the past 6 years what the problem is. First it’s a black thing mostly since most of these guys are African American. There’s discrimination as African Americans have a harder time getting work after their playing days are over. Last but not least, maybe if we payed these players higher wages than they would have more money when they retired to carry them thru to death and by death I mean natural not suicide.

    We can easily pay these retired players more by increasing ticket sales and give that money to the players. Sort of like raising McDonalds employees to 15.00 an hour so they have more money in retirement which I am in favor of as well. I for one have never went to a game but I would be all in favor of increasing ticket sales if it meant these poor football players can retire in comfort rather than struggle like myself.

  7. I have zero sympathy. Let’s not forget that these guys went to college for at least 3 years. If you don’t know/haven’t learned basic fiscal management, or have the awareness to hire someone who does, why should anyone have to do anything to save them from themselves? I recall a story about this from when I was a kid, something about an ant and a grasshopper.

    Life’s can be a bitch sometimes and actions have consequences.

  8. Geez, Louise. Not one of my employers has ever expressed any concern for my financial well-being after I left their employ. The players have been coddled their whole life due to their athletic gifts. Cory suggests that the coddling continue until they reach social security, or even longer. At some point they have to enter the real world. NFL has classes now. That’s enough. AND NO TO RAISING TICKET prices to give to players, many of whom made more money in 1 year than I have in my whole life. No sympathy from me.

    1. Come on Reynoldo. You can afford to pay a little more. Time to “pay your fair share” like Obama says so these guys can live in relative comfort in their later years. You owe them that for all the entertainment they provided you and for their physical sacrifice in their youth. Raise the ticket prices NOW!! These people that go to games (I don’t) can afford it. Besides, the economy is booming. Guys like Mossy Cade and Justin Harrel should get taken care of by the fans for life. It’s common sense and human decency.

  9. We all know that we should be exercising, sleeping and eating right, but how many of us do it? We all know we should do it, yet many of us do not. We have been educated to do it, but usually do not get shocked out of our apathy until something terrible happens. This leads me to conclude it is simply — and unfortunately — human nature to let experience be the teacher. That includes finances of NFL players.

    The NFL will never eliminate this problem, but they can minimize it. There are a lot of resources out there (i.e. Financial Education Program), but will the players take “the offered hand?”

    Sadly, with large amounts of money, we know these things to be true:

    1) You can lead a player to resources, you can’t make him use them.

    2) Money makes people act funny. Even your own family can turn on you.

    At the same time, I am not saying it’s ok that Roger Goodell made more money in the last 5 minutes than we’ll ever make, but we also need to remember the NFL’s organizational structure is part of the problem: Goodell works for the owners. And as long as Goodell is bringing in crazy money for the owners, that symbiotic power structure only serves each other, not the players and not the fans.

    I have no sympathy for egomaniacs like Warren Sapp and Terrell Owens who have financial problems. We will always have more Warren Sapps and Terrell Owens’ as time goes on, that’s a fact. You could shackle financial advisors to every single NFL player and there will always be a percentage who will blow their money or get swindled out of it.

    Hell, sometimes players own families even come after them for money! Just ask Tyron Smith and Philip Buchanon. My point is, anytime you have large sums of money, there will be risks. The NFL can educate players until they are blue in the face, but usually personal experience is the best teacher.

  10. What a steaming load of bullshit. “The players associate with the wrong crowd. The players make stupid, asinine purchases. The players fail to realize that they need to budget their money (like all other people in the world). The league DOES educate the players. The league DOES pay very high salaries. The league DOES have a pension. Teams DO have people on staff for the sole purpose of helping players establish themselves socially, professionally and financially… but it’s the big, bad NFL’s fault!”

    How lame.

    Check out one man’s summary of the CBA at the following link. Yeah, those poor babies are hurting! Who can help these vulnerable and at-risk members of our society? LOL.

  11. I’ve heard that the rates of players from both the NBA and NFL going busto is closer to 75-80% declaring bankruptcy within 6 years of retirement. This information was from an ESPN 30-for-30, I believe.

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